It would appear that we have a new President-Elect. You are probably not surprised that he isn’t my first choice. So it goes.
No matter where you are on the political spectrum, how you voted, and what you believe, this has been a tough election. This election has put a spotlight on the entrenched, structural divides in our nation. It has forced issues of racism, sexism, prejudice and all forms of hatred into the popular conversation. It has raised questions about the future of this country. With the seemingly endless negativity and vile rhetoric, it is hard not to feel like this country is more divided tonight than at the beginning of the campaign.
But no matter what happens over the next few days, now the most important question is what each one of us will do next.
The United States of America is not defined by a single election. It is not defined by a single political party. It is certainly not defined by a single man. The United States of America is defined by the individuals that call it home. We create it’s culture and it’s identity. Our values are laid forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I, for one, still believe in these values. While many of my friends and acquaintances might consider November 8th 2016 a defeat, I pose another option. Today should be a call to action to each and every one of us. We have a stake in the future of the United States – and we have a responsibility to contribute to it. This responsibility is more important now than ever.
- Option A: Sulk
If I have seen one thing tonight in the reactions on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, it is one of disgust and defeat. I have seen plenty of people declaring their intention to move abroad, or undermining the United States as a country. Many have stated their shock at the reprehensible, intolerable opinions that have apparently taken control. My first reaction wasn’t too far off. We can certainly be upset. We can feel the defeat and be concerned about what it means. We can be surprised and frightened. This election has been a series of justifiable concerns about how a Trump presidency might change the country. But we have to realize that by taking this road, we give the power to our fears. We resign our country to the will and whim of someone who has demonstrated troubling beliefs. We admit that democracy only happens once every four years, and that our votes don’t really count. Sulking gets us right back here four years from now.
- Option B: Do Better
Along with my concern and anticipation, I am motivated. The election of Donald Trump makes me feel a deep commitment to staying involved in the political and social future of my country, starting immediately. I will not willing give up my voice or resign my beliefs. Instead, I will stand fast and fight for my rights and the rights of my countrymen (and women). Tonight and over the course of the last few months, I have learned more about my country and about my own personal biases and privilege. This election has challenged my preconceived notions of what this country stands for and what reality is for people I don’t often think about. It has made me realize that there is more nuance to this country than I even imagined. It has made me want to learn more, understand more about my country and the people I share it with. We must take time to understand the why but more importantly the who. When we can understand these deep divides within our country, we can begin to address them. We need to find ways to build bridges and solve the social problems that connects us all. At the end of the day we are all looking for that grand promise: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Of course, it is also time to defend the values that we now feel are in peril. Multiculturalism, social freedoms, providing opportunities to the disenfranchised: there are the things that many say are now lost. These are precisely the things we must now rely on. We cannot surrender our stake in our country and we cannot give up on these ideals. This is our moment to do better for our country. We need to find new solutions, new voices, and new motivation so that in four years we feel represented in our elections. We need to work together to create a better country – not just for those whom we like or those whom we agree with, but for everyone, even the “deplorables.”
Today is our opportunity to take our passion, our anger, and our disappointment and turn it into something positive. The choice of what happens next is up to us. We can decide to give up on our country. We can decide that democracy has failed. We can protest and force recounts and generally be unhappy about what has happened. But, we can also decide to do something different. Democracy requires an ongoing conversation. We are the ones responsible for ensuring this conversation happens – and that we all have a voice in it. This is a conversation that needs to happen now, not tomorrow, not when the next election cycle is imminent. Democracy doesn’t end on November 9th. We can decide today is just the beginning. So let’s begin.