I was never very politically involved until this most recent election. I think a lot of people can say the same. The 2016 election ran a lot like a reality T.V. show. Americans who normally paid no mind to politics tuned in for the drama of it all. For a lot of people, the feasibility of Donald Trump taking office seemed like a far-fetched concept. They would watch the debates with a bowl of popcorn in their lap and laugh at the shots fired back and forth between Trump and Clinton. Trump’s run for president was a joking matter, until his presidency became reality.
I was living in Manhattan at the time. I remember waking up the morning of November 9th, 2016 to the news, which I truly did not foresee. New York City, which resides within a democratic state, for the first time since tragedy, was quite. I walked along 14th street towards the Union Square subway station on my typical morning commute to school, and the city was silent. The streets were full, because obviously life must go on, but people walked with their heads down in utter disbelief.
New York City prides itself on diversity. It is a melting pot for every ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender preference, and personality. That city is a collection of misfits and acts as a place in which they can all coexist. It is a safe place for anyone who is even the slightest bit different. And for the first time, at least within my lifetime, the U.S. had a president that threatened each and every one of those beings.
I Facetimed my parents later that evening. I cringed at each ring before they answered, because even though I had spent the day in melancholy, I knew to them the call would be celebratory. Both my father and mother supported Trump largely. They were big advocates for his campaign; they even sported t-shirts and baseball caps with “Make America Great Again” embroidered across. They had no shame in endorsing his presidency.
The conversation with my parents did not go well. They did not understand why I was upset. This was a good thing, they proclaimed. But I thought of all my friends that would be affected by normalization of the rhetoric in Trump’s campaign and begged to differ. I was told my thought process was simply a result of the media twisting his words. Trump is not racist or misogynist, they asserted. I became choked up in trying to explain how regardless of whether he was, those that are racist and/or misogynistic now have reason to believe their behavior is okay. This was genuine concern of mine, but they said I was being dramatic.
Later that evening, my roommate and I ventured out for some ice cream. We passed a group of men laughing as they yelled out the realization, “We can grab women by the pussy now.” Towards the end of that week, I heard about a Muslim prayer room at New York University that had been vandalized. Similar sort of happenings began to occur more frequently in the following weeks. I told my parents of each occurrence, and they did not see the correlation. I was deeply frustrated that they and so many other people could be so blind to what was happening.
In a desperate attempt to understand their line of thinking, I dared to ask what “Make America Great Again” meant to them. My father, who was deeply passionate on the matter, had no trouble answering me. He began in explaining that his biggest concern was employment, especially for those of his generation without a bachelor’s degree. Nowadays, a college degree is a necessity, which is far from how things used to be. Since retiring from Verizon after over 30 years, my father had sought out work to afford my pursuit of a degree. But the only jobs available to him were part-time work without benefits. He could not qualify for any higher positions because of his lack of a degree, despite the 30 plus years he spent working tirelessly and earned equitable money. He is now too old to do the physical labor required to make the same kind of money. Trump promised to provide jobs for people like my father.
My father’s other concern was immigration. With so much terrorism going on in other countries, my father believes this is priority. Another worry that coincides with this is he said Obama weakened our military. He believes our military should be invested in so to prevent any potential attacks from Isis. Protection of our country from terrorism is something my father does not take lightly.
Regardless of whether I agree or disagree with my father, my question is at what cost do we need these changes. My father’s concerns are valid, but the solutions come from a man desensitized to people’s feelings. My concern is with how Trump’s discourse and behavior will influence Americans. At some point the line needs to be drawn. Many people will argue I am a typical liberal, too sensitive. They might even call me a snowflake. But I think having a man accused of sexual assault become the most powerful man in the country in spite of that goes to show how deeply embedded we are in patriarchy. Problems like that are what we need to work on.
Our country will forever be divided over policies. At no point should Americans feel it necessary to sacrifice empathy. To liberals, like myself, politics are essentially their morals. I want to know why we can’t have both. I do not understand why to have such political changes can’t we also have humanity involved. To have one we should not have to sacrifice the other. Navigating America post Trump’s presidency with conservatives for parents and my own liberal beliefs has me questioning a lot about our society. I think we have a lot of work to do in how we treat others before we can compromise on how things should be. If anything, it seems these things go hand in hand in order to make the most impact on our society.
Although a lot of negative reactions came as a result of the election, what I remember most following it was not the hate but how people came to together in opposition of it. The walls of the Union Square subway station were covered with Post-It notes. It was called “Subway Therapy.” People wrote notes of positivity to make up for the reality. Eventually, New Yorkers resumed their commutes just as loudly as the day before Trump’s presidency. Through compassion, they were able to again find normalcy, and given confidence and support in combating bigotry.