As terrifying as these results are and will continue to be, we cannot let our actions and words deepen the crevice between the “two Americas”, whose differences have so sharply come to our attention throughout this tumultuous election season.
This initial reaction is only natural. But as time goes on, we cannot allow rage to blind us; we cannot cast the blame on any particular group; we cannot feed into the hatred that has already polarized America so. Yeah, we’re pissed. But what good will that do?
The results of this election have already steered the ship in that direction, and we must not let our anger become the wind that propels it further. We have to keep an open mind, because although it does indeed feel like the apocalypse is approaching, or that we’re in a bad dystopian film, this is our reality from now on. We can’t change what has already happened. It’s disillusioning, yes, but we have to do what we can within this framework that we are now trapped in—this is our reality.
My first reaction, too, was to bash practically half of America, its third party voters, and all the non-voters in critical states. To puzzle over just how the hell this happened. How anybody could even entertain the idea of America as “great”, or even the “best” nation, when the democracy it so proudly champions has given rise to the utter antithesis of all of its supposed values: an ill-informed, trash-talking personification of racism, xenophobia, white supremacy, privilege, and misogyny.
There are, however, other reasons people voted for Trump, albeit ones that I still can’t quite comprehend, as I can’t see how they could possibly override the unpleasant big picture that is Trump’s character, or lack thereof. But I’m trying to understand it, because we cannot afford standing completely at odds with this “other America” any longer—that much, at least, is clear. As many have pointed out, Trump tapped into a widespread populist sentiment, a strong and deeply rooted desire for anti-establishment and any kind of change in the system—several things that Clinton could not represent for them. The American people are deeply unhappy. And regardless of education, religion, and race, elements that play into what we assume to be outright ignorance, this resentment, this alienation felt toward political and civic institutions by the other half of America—it is real. And it must be addressed.
This rhetoric of “us vs. them” cannot prevail. We can’t possibly come to terms with each other or fix this jarring division by rambling on in our own monologues; we must engage in dialogue with each other. And, of course, we have to continue supporting the marginalized, who will undoubtedly be rattled by this event. Although we can’t change who our representatives are, we can still represent ourselves in other ways over the next four years. We can stand up to protect the marginalized when reactionary policies inevitably arise. We can continue exuding the motto that “love trumps hate”, with or without its newfound political significance. We can judge for ourselves what laws are just and unjust, and if they are the latter, our actions can prevent them from becoming de facto. We can try to bridge the gap between the two Americas by keeping an open mind and engaging in conversation as this presidency unfolds. A “nation” is, after all, just an umbrella term for its people. America can really be great as long as its people are.
I know this is perhaps overly idealistic, and that a Facebook post has little tangible effect. I also understand the fear and the antagonism; I feel it, too, now that I’m here in the States and I have become a “woman of color”. I know it sucks to have to be the bigger person, to try to understand an America that has never tried to understand you. But I just hope that, in the midst of all this chaos and natural anti-Trump sentiment, we won’t simply add fuel to the very hatred that elected our new president last night.