We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. Martin Luther King, Jr.
KATIE CAMPBELL- On Friday morning, I got on a plane to go to Paris. How lucky am I that this was not my first, but my second time visiting the city? I had been especially excited for this trip, but in the days immediately before I left much of my enthusiasm was drained. The last few days were tainted with anger, sadness and a longing to be able to comfort everyone who is already feeling the profound effects of this election more strongly than I ever will. I felt guilty that the safety and security of my friends and family are at risk, while I’m in Europe having an incredible study abroad experience that demonstrates just how privileged I am. I can’t imagine the conversations all over the United States this week as parents try to explain to their children what these results mean, marginalized people fear for their lives, and young adults lament their lack of voice in creating a future for America.
To me, the results of this election truly demonstrate the startling consequences of a broken system that no one has been willing to change for the past 300 years just because it hasn’t suited their own agendas, and would be difficult. This result isn’t just about a race between a large, orange man named Donald and a smaller woman named Hillary. This is a clear manifestation of the frustration and dissatisfaction that just over half of our country’s population feels.
Though our unique system of checks and balances ensured that no one person (or group of people) became an “all-powerful” ruler, don’t we think that the climate of the world has changed enough over the past 300 years that the system might need a little updating? If we ecstatically update the software on our phones every time that annoying, little box pops up and quickly jump on board with every new trend we see on Instagram shouldn’t we be able to devote a little bit of our collective brain power to creating a society in which its citizens don’t have to fear that the very tyrants we were founded to escape will regain their power?
In the immediate aftermath of the election, I heard nothing but disbelief and shock. But as our day-to-day lives continued here in Spain, almost as if nothing had happened, I have watched these feelings turn to a grief and sadness that has begun to turn into anger: anger at the inherent, systemic biases in our country; anger as a way to hide our fear of an uncertain future; and, especially from 6000 miles away, anger as a result of not being able to support and comfort our friends and family who need it most.
I’ve been surprised at the emotional outpouring immediately following the election; and how many people I’ve seen openly share his or her story, but finish with “I know it’s not that bad. Someone else has it worse than me.” In my isolated group of (mostly) liberal university students whose identities and backgrounds range from non-white-passing, first-generation Americans to the “typical” upper-middle class, white American almost everyone has asserted this sentiment. Whether a privileged woman says this or someone of a more marginalized group, each time I hear it, it hurts. How can we truly validate the feelings of our peers, and thus support them if we can’t even allow ourselves to feel?
Clearly, I don’t have a good answer to any of these questions. I certainly don’t know the most about the American political system, but what I do know is that recognizing how we are feeling, and using that as an inspiring stimulus or call-to-action is what will allow all of us to overcome this misfortune: together. For those of us who are privileged enough to do so, we absolutely cannot run away to another country (as much as I, for one, would love to stay here in Spain) or retreat into an identity where we know we will not be impacted.
We must initiate an open dialogue to begin to try to understand how the people around us will be affected in the coming months, and learn what we can do to support them. We must challenge the status quo to show that this blatant acceptance of bigotry, misogyny, and injustice does not correspond with the principles upon which America was founded and continues to exist. We must engage with our leaders to prove that the youth of America demand a safe, secure, strong country for our own future, and more importantly that of future generations.