Grieve, then Get Up: Why a Trump Presidency Isn’t Going to Stop Me

My mom texted me a few nights after learning that the future of our country lies in the hands of Donald Trump. “I wish I could watch the news!” she said, lamenting the fact that apparently even MSNBC is too depressing for her even to consider turning on the TV. I pointed out to her that Thoreau, when he completely detached himself from a society with which he disagreed, still ended up in prison for tax evasion (and lost a year of activism). My point to her, and to anyone willing to listen, is this: you can’t remove yourself from the system. In order to make the change you want to see, you have to play the game.

I was as upset as anybody on Tuesday night. I walked home from the Gund Gallery, discouraged, and ended the night on the stairwell in my dorm, refreshing CNN’s election map and crying. For the first hour or so of Wednesday, I thought that maybe it wasn’t real. That the screen I was looking at displayed a poll or a prediction instead of actual votes cast by real Americans. Everyone, I think, had the same kind of moment of realization that I did: the red was outnumbering the blue, and that meant that Donald Trump had garnered more support than Hillary Clinton.

A man cradled by luxury, who never shared the struggle of the working class that elected him, whose white male privilege lets him spew slurs and insults and escape unscathed, who is completely void of political experience, is going to be the next leader of the free world.

Are you mad? Because I am.

I’m infuriated that Hillary Clinton, a public servant with decades of political experience who has spent her career advocating for those in need, who outshone Trump in rhetoric and temperament, who became a role model for women everywhere, lost the election.

If I were to be that vocal about my disappointment back at home, I’d get a lot of backlash. My hometown is an overwhelmingly conservative suburb of Indianapolis in a county that was opaquely red on Tuesday night. It is the heart of Mike Pence’s conservative, Christian utopia. Here at Kenyon, though, I didn’t have to hide my disappointment on Wednesday morning. I didn’t have to listen to my peers jeer at me or mock my passion; instead, most of them shared my grief. I have been incredibly lucky to share my community with a diverse, intelligent group of students and professors who understand the implications of this election.

One of my professors canceled our class’s planned discussion and let us sit close around the table to talk about how we were processing the previous night. He shared our concerns and tried his best to give us hope. Members of the community offered letters of solidarity. Campus resources mobilized to provide support to those left vulnerable by the results. I witnessed an empathetic campus come together to mourn, and for that, I am grateful.

I had an epiphany of political efficacy in the early hours of Wednesday after thinking about something my friend Vahni had said. Besides a brief period mourning, now it is not only our opportunity, but our obligation to make change. We’re the ones who are in charge of the future. I went to bed that night considering switching my major to political science and even going to law school. Although I now realize that maybe this isn’t quite my avenue, what Vahni said is right: it’s on us—young, educated, Americans—to work the system and bring about the changes we want.

Despite our disappointment, it’s important to remember that the next four years, like it or not, are going to be shaped by Donald Trump. Those who call for his failure also call for the failure of the nation at his hands; this may be an intense emotional reaction, but do we really want to foster an attitude of hostility towards the person who’s going to lead us? Now more than ever, we have to come together against what we see as unjust. We can protest, we can lobby, we can effect change—and we should. But we shouldn’t hope for the collapse of the system we inhabit.

One of the most disturbing phenomena I've seen in the past week has been the accusations of bigotry towards Trump supporters. Is every Trump supporter a racist? No. But when you cast your vote for someone who is, you’re choosing to endorse that aspect of his platform. It’s not that your vote for Trump means you hate people of color (or women, or the LGBT+ population, or Muslims, or Mexicans, etc), it’s that they didn’t matter enough to affect your decision. That apathy, though, is still harmful to those whose rights are compromised by the bigotry embodied by Trump and Pence. It is so hard to stomach the fact that, on top of those who actually are prejudiced against these groups, there are those who simply don’t care.

Those same people, the ones who loathed the Obama administration and claimed that their intense ire was justified by the threat Clinton posed to the nation, began to preach about togetherness and unity. I find an astonishing lack of empathy in these sentiments. You didn’t “come together” under Obama, you lashed out at every move he made. You claimed he wasn’t your President, and you did everything possible to deny his successes for the nation. Now, you want people to unite and respect a man elected on a wave of fear-mongering, even though my candidate won the popular vote and yours, ironically, prevailed in the “corrupt establishment construct” of the electoral college. I find it impossible to respect this man, and if you can’t imagine why, you may want to reassess his platform.

Many people whose lives are exposed to me on social media expressed their unfavorable opinions of people like me, who have voiced concerns and even fear regarding the nation’ s future. To them, I would like to say:

My grief at the loss of a progressive candidate is not “whining.” I feel genuine sadness for my friends of color, my immigrant friends, my LGBTQ+ friends, and every person who has been exposed to hatred and apathy during the election cycle and who will have to shoulder that burden for the next four years.

My horror at the eruption of hate crimes over the past week is not a denial of the realities of the world. It represents a conviction that no one should be targeted, under any circumstance, and that the actions of those who continue to intimidate others is deplorable.

My passion for change in the climate of political conservatism is not foolish. I understand that change is going to be an uphill battle. I don’t expect it be easy. I don’t expect it to be expedient. I expect a fight, and I’m ready for it.

My anger at the betrayal of “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” is not a refusal to accept the results. It’s an expression of the widely-held sentiment that the ideals upon which America was founded have been grossly subverted.

A ray of hope in last week's results is the fact that the movement that supported Hillary and all she stood for isn’t going to back down; it’s going to get stronger. Seriously, if you thought feminism and political corrections were bad before, they’re about to become insidious. I think that many of us who were disappointed—and horrified—by the results are experiencing the same kind of efficacy revelation that I did, on an incredibly larger scale.

It’s hard to see the progress of the last eight years threatened. It’s unbearable to think of the potential for disaster this administration holds. It’s terrifying to think of the friends whose rights are in jeopardy. It’s not hard, though, to make change happen. In fact, it’s imperative that we do. Last week, I mourned the loss of what I thought was going to be a historic administration. Looking forward, though, I’m going to continue to fight, for myself and for those who don’t have the voice that privilege gives me. I have a lot of time invested in America and even more left to inhabit it, and I plan to make those years a time of progress.


Image Credit: The Times of Northwest Indiana, CNN, The Huffington Post