August 21, 2017

Moving forward

I am angry.

I’m angry at Hillary for losing such a seemingly winnable election.

I’m angry at pollsters and statisticians for making me believe Hillary had already won.

I’m angry at the people who didn’t vote.

I’m angry at the electoral college for misrepresenting the views of the electorate.

I’m angry at Trump’s supporters for electing him when it has been patently obvious that he is unfit for civic duty.

I’m angry at America for choosing to move backwards.

But most of all, I’m angry that we have chosen to normalize hatred.

I watched the results come in at Wellesley College, in a gym with about 3,000 people. It was hot and cramped and lacked good seating. It was also one of the most incredible scenes I’ve ever witnessed. The crowd buzzed with nervous excitement, thousands of women anticipating Hillary’s triumph. Pantsuits were everywhere, often accompanied by ‘Stronger Together’ posters and cupcakes topped with edible ‘glass’. It felt like history in the making. Women outnumbered men in that gym about 10-1, but even I could feel the cracks forming in the glass ceiling.

And then Trump started to lead by 1.5% in Florida, with 97% of the votes in. And he demolished her in Ohio. And he started pulling away in Wisconsin. Every time the numbers flashed across the screen, groans flickered across the crowd. My friends and I left at 1:30 A.M., when it became clear that a much worse history was being made. People evacuated in droves; the ones that stayed were swearing or crying or just sitting in shock. When I got home, a notification flashed across my phone. Donald Trump had won Pennsylvania, it read. It was over. He would be the president of the United States of America.

In a race of hyperbole, of extremes — love versus hate; equality versus bigotry; 2016 versus 1930 — hate won.

And that hate — that practice of spewing offensive slurs; the habit of calling people names; the disregard for understanding how your words could offend somebody — trickles down. Looking through Facebook proves it.

Facebook after Trump won mirrored the real-life response to the election itself. It was tragic yet beautiful in parts, a wave of millennials writing words of support, of love for minorities, of sadness for the present but hope for the future. There was remarkable unity.

But there was also so much ugliness, the same ugliness that won Trump the election in the first place. Trump supporters laughed at other people’s pain, called feminism “cancerous”, and insinuated that Trump himself was never racist — that media bias only painted him that way.

It wasn’t just Trump supporters, though. Some of the responses from Hillary supporters were just as vicious. Personal attacks against Trump supporters flew back and forth to the point where nobody was even talking about the election anymore. That scared me more than the rest of it. It didn’t feel like the end of a hostile, tiring election; it felt like the beginning of something much worse.

Trump has already begun to surround himself with people whose philosophies predicate on hatred, but that’s almost predictable after seeing who he trusted to help on his campaign. What worries me is that he is desensitizing us to the type of hate that should instinctively make humans recoil in horror, and the endgame is unclear.

The hatred that Trump espouses won’t go away because, barring some divine intervention, neither will he. His refusal to condemn the nationwide vitriol that he catalyzed has already caused hate crimes to spike since his election; unless he speaks out against this animosity now, there is no reason to think America won’t become even more divided.

But we should not expect apologies from Trump — he has ‘apologized’ once in the past year-and-a-half. Women everywhere, he is sorry if he offended you. No, expecting too much from him will only lead to disappointment. It’s time for us millennials to put our very limited amounts of money where our mouths are. We can’t just write about these issues on Facebook (or blog about them) and pat ourselves on the back for doing our daily good deed; we need to act.  

Millennials, young people, high school students — we are the future. We are going to spend the next four years under president Donald J. Trump. Don’t let that become the next eight. We are going to spend the next four years under a leader who empowers racists and sexists to show their true colors. Don’t let those people represent America.

So how do we do that? We vote. We build on the hope we showed in this election by turning out in record numbers four years from now. We canvass for congressmen and congresswomen who represent our values. Most importantly, we stay vigilant.

If your emotions were so strong that you made an angry post on Facebook saying that you are embarrassed to be an American, don’t just sit there in two years when more seats are available in Congress. Don’t sit there in four years when Trump (and everything he represents) are up for reelection.

When emboldened Trump supporters — or any individuals! — start throwing around racist and misogynistic remarks, don’t just sit there. Trump’s vitriol will spread as far as we are willing to let it — don’t let it spread any further.

The 2016 election will be remembered by many as the election that revealed the underlying anger of the people of the United States. There’s a silver lining, though. The 2016 election also illustrated just how overwhelmingly anti-hate millennials are, showed that the young people of America want a better future than the one Donald Trump offers.

We have a chance to rewrite history; a chance to start anew. We the young people can let future generations remember 2016 as the Year of Trump, the Year of Bigotry, the Year of Hate. Or we can make ourselves heard.

2016 can still be a stepping stone, the point at which we finally figured out how to channel our present anger into building a more tolerant, unified America.

Everything is not going to be alright today. Thanks to Trump, we are far beyond alright. But if we band together, stay strong, and stand up for what we believe in, we retain the prospect of a better tomorrow.

2 Comments

  1. You are absolutely right Zach. Hand wringing or whining won’t fix it. Time to get out the vote with a better perspective on what is needed. George M.

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