Editorial: Post-election Thoughts
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I’m generally known as a person who cares deeply about and is very personally invested in politics. Anyone who reads the Chieftain Press will know that I’ve been covering politics for the past few years and it is basically all I write about. I find it intensely fascinating and wouldn’t give up this beat for anything. Those that know me more personally know that it goes much deeper than this, however. Politics is important to me because it connects to every bit of who I am as a person: my family history and faith, my core beliefs and worldview, my optimism for this country, and my dreams for the future of my own life and the lives of those around me. Some might say I’ve let it become too much a part of my life and identity, but I can’t imagine it any other way. Ever since I was exposed to civics and government in middle school, I’ve cared so deeply about being able to somehow address the issues that we face. That’s not something that I can ever switch off, much to the chagrin of family, friends, and teachers with whom I’ve occasionally argued. What I’m trying to say is that I feel like I owe all the people I’ve been talking to over the previous months some sort of articulation of my thoughts, but the truth is that I don’t know why any of this happened and I don’t know what the future holds. I’ve given it a go anyway.
Politics is ingrained in my blood. I come from a family of immigrants and Holocaust survivors, and my grandparents and great-grandparents embraced democracy because the Nazis tried to silence their voice and voting is a way to be heard. As I sat with my dad and watched the results trickle in, I heard the voice of millions of Americans around the country. It was difficult to listen to, but I persevered until the wee hours of the morning because sometimes the most difficult messages are the most important ones.
The message I heard was not a comforting one. To be perfectly frank, I can’t stand the pundits who just want to talk about the economic anxiety of Trump supporters and the ramifications of globalization. It is absolutely true that the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs due to the expansion of free trade severely hurt Americans who worked in that sector. I have a great deal of sympathy for people who clearly feel that they have nowhere else to turn. I would absolutely support any policy that intended to provide a social safety net for such Americans, as well as education programs to enable them to find jobs in other sectors. What is unconscionable about the election of Trump, in my opinion, is that his campaign expressed that economic frustration with hatred and bigotry. Because, regardless of the true reason behind the desire to “take the country back”, that is what it feels like to those of us who are left out of your new/old America. Hatred.
I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. Ever since I went to bed, distressed and dismayed, there’s been a dull, all-encompassing pain settling in. At first I thought it was disappointment. Disappointment that I, that we, really, had failed. Failed to stop our country’s spiral into madness. Failed to elect a qualified leader for President. Failed to do the only thing that really matters: make a positive difference.
It was more than that, though. I’m afraid. I don’t know if it’s a learned or an innate anxiety, but there’s something deep inside that tells me that I cannot sit idly and accept this as just another development in the long and storied political history of the United States.
I walked into Physics the morning after the election and a friend of mine looked me deep in the eyes and asked me if we were going to be OK. I was stopped in my tracks and, in a rare moment, I had nothing to say. Every fiber of my being was aching to say yes, but instead I said nothing. Whenever I’ve looked someone in the eyes since the election, I’ve wanted to give them a hug and tell them it’s all going to be OK. But I can’t, because I’m not confident that I’d be telling the truth.
So where do we go from here? I obviously am in no position to answer this. Everyone needs to forge their own path and better voices than mine will lead the way. Nonetheless, here are some things that I’ll be using to guide my own actions:
- Stay angry. As Muhammad Ali said in a poem “Better for my fight to wage / Now while my blood boils with rage / Lest it cool with ancient age”. Don’t let time take away your passion to affect change.
- Vote in the midterm elections in 2018! Trump won because his supporters made their voices louder than we did. In a democracy, voting is your only true power. Don’t let Democratic turnout fall in 2018.
- Join the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union). They are ready to take Trump to court if he tries to enact any unconstitutional policies.
- Support your friends, family, and community. Especially people who will be vulnerable during the next four years. Be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community. Don’t tolerate racism against African Americans and Latinx people. Put an end to antisemitism, misogyny, and bigotry anywhere that it takes root.
- Don’t forget to love. We fought this battle with the slogan “Love trumps hate”. Prove that, although we lost the election, we meant what we said. The worst thing we can do now is to despair and, in doing so, forget why we are fighting.
- Make yourself heard. The one thing I love almost as much as politics and crossword puzzles is folk music. Phil Ochs’ song “I’m Gonna Say It Now” is especially poignant. His song touches on a number of issues, but he ends each verse with the refrain “So when I’ve got something to say, sir, I’m gonna say it now”.
I think that if Woody Guthrie could see us now, he’d be disappointed. We should all take this verse of his to heart “I’m gonna tell you fascists / You may be surprised / The people in this world / Are getting organized / You’re bound to lose / You fascists bound to lose”. I love this country, and I don’t want to see it fall apart at the hands of fascists. Let’s get organized. Let’s speak up. Let’s mitigate the next two years of GOP control, let’s take Congress from them in 2018, and let’s take the Presidency in 2020. Even through all of this sadness and the tempting tendrils of despair, I remain optimistic. No matter the setbacks, we will one day overcome hatred. As Martin Luther King Jr. famously put it, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”