I still remember the worn paper sign that hung in the corner of my old tenth-grade English classroom, behind our teacher’s desk by the window. The half-faded words stamped across it that looked like they had been coughed out of an inkjet printer in its dying breath, but their message was nonetheless clear:
Why do we kill people to show people who kill people that killing people is wrong?
When I think about what happened last night during the election, I think back to that sign. It’s true that this is a “historic moment” in every sense of the term, though my heart aches to type those words: for the first time in the history of the United States, we have elected a president-to-be who has never held public office or served in the military. We have elected an individual who has demonstrated repeatedly his fundamental lack of respect for women, minorities, the LGBT community, the list goes on–as well as his inability to comprehend the importance of international cooperation in a post-sovereignty world, to understand that united with the world we stand, divided from it in aggressive assertion of our superiority–we fall.
But the hate, the misogyny, the racism, and the ignorance that has spewed forth from the now president-elect’s campaign are only part of the problem here. What has been clear from the start of this very strange election cycle was that both sides built their campaigns around a foundation based on suspicion, mistrust, finger-pointing, and othering the opposition. One critical question, however, that for me has unpinned this grueling months-long process remains unasked, and so I ask it now:
Why do we hate people who hate people to show that hating people is wrong?
I am under no delusion that scapegoating and mudslinging are “new” concepts in the political arena. In fact, as far as I can remember they have always been a part of (and presumably will continue to be) something like standard practice along the campaign trail, for better or for worse. That being said, the levels of hatred that fueled both the Clinton and Trump campaigns this time around absolutely floored me. When the results started trickling in around 6 PM PST, the tenor of my generally liberal Facebook news feed gradually shifted from one of self-celebrating elation (artsy “I VOTED” stickers and cheery injunctions to “go vote!”) to wary incredulity, then from indignant disbelief (“Wtf Florida you had one job,” “gonna go get alcohol now”) to downright fury. It was as if all of the vitriol from the deepest recesses of my newsfeed’s soul suddenly burst through a dam that had been pounded away at day after day, year after year, and by the time 11 o’ clock rolled around I found myself drowning virtually in a sea of spewing, endless epithets about the events of the day.
To be clear: yes, I believe that this is the worst possible decision we could have made under the circumstances. No, I have never come so close to crying over a political outcome before. But hatred–and that comes in all forms, from rampant racism to the death wishes that you send to everyone who voted for someone who I now have to call the next president of the United States–is reactive, not responsive. Hatred produces misunderstandings, which in turn begets hatred. And hatred is not the answer.
I am as disappointed, saddened, confused as any of my friends and political fellows by the way last night’s results went down, but I do not feel entitled to issue self-gratifying condemnations of anyone who did not vote as I did. After we listened to Trump deliver his victory speech around midnight, my friend and I left the main building where we had been watching the election. We had barely exited campus, however, when we heard on the adjacent street what sounded like a dull murmur, then something like a deafening roar as we entered a nearby the tunnel. Ahead of us, we could see a crowd of about 300 people clamoring, climbing over barriers, and chanting loudly in unison. It took us a moment, amid the chaos, to realize what they were yelling:
“I say F***, you say Trump! F*** Trump! F**** Trump!”
While I believe that non-violent, community-oriented expressions of discontent are vital to our democracy, I can’t help but imagine what would happen if we took the frustration of every single student in that angry, swearing mob and channeled that energy into something more productive: say, submitting an organized op-ed that can mobilize change at a local level or creating curricula (not only during election season) that encourages youths to be more responsibly informed about world and domestic affairs. Giving in to our rage and despair may be the easy thing to do, and that is why so often it is the first thing that we do, and not only when it comes to politics. But because it is more about self-gratification and personal release than responsible action, it is also the selfish thing to do. And as last night showed those of us who were stunned by the results, we can no longer afford to think in such selfish terms.
I’m writing this post (as mentioned in the Facebook status update posted above) in the hopes of opening up a space for as many viewpoints on last night’s events as possible. I don’t normally write about politics here, but after seeing the near-monolithic outpouring of reactivity from my (extremely beloved) friends on Facebook, I realized that I have nothing to lose and everything to gain if I try to make sense of everything with the help of the most diverse community I know: you. Whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, an unaffiliated voter, someone who has experienced conflict with close friends and family about voting choices, an outsider looking in from beyond the United States, or something else, I would love for you to share your thoughts about last night’s election below. Let’s make this a safe, productive, and thought-provoking conversation about how to move forward after election night.
Some questions to consider:
- How closely did you follow the events of this election cycle?
- What are your thoughts on the campaigns and process that led up to election night?
- How did you and/or your loved ones respond to the outcome of the election?
- Do you and your network (of friends, colleagues, aquaintances, etc.) generally hold similar political and/or socioeconomic values? Or do you surround yourself with groups that are fairly diverse in the political beliefs?
- Did you encounter any disagreements or points of contention with people in your social network about the election? How did you address or resolve these issues?
- How do you plan to move forward now that the election is over?
Feel free to leave your thoughts, questions, and comments about last night’s election below, as well as to encourage your social network to participate as well. While all viewpoints are welcome, please remember that this is a space for open, respectful conversations.