By Amber Burkhart
On election night, a group of friends and I squeezed around a laptop, watching Wolf Blitzer fumble with touch-screen graphics. We were in a dorm room, a floor lamp filling our features with warm tones.,
Most of us cried. We huddled on a dorm room mattress and balled-up coats and lamented together.
I felt sorrow for pains that I cannot conceive of. I realized that the extremity of my fear, anger and grief was because political issues have rarely had negative affects on me. There are so many who are met by struggles every day due to our political climate. So many woes experienced by those who identify with a disadvantaged group that I do not. In writing this article, my desire is not to delegitimize or downplay other experiences. I understand that I am in a place of immense privilege, and I cannot fully understand the experiences of many affected by the election of Donald Trump. My intention in this piece is to build tolerance, as well as encourage people to protest rather than mourn and retweet.
I say “protest” with caution. It would be detrimental to throw hate at Trump supporters. I grieved for a society willing to elect a candidate who is fueled by hatred, bigotry and fear. I see Trump’s election as a result of ignorance, which is not cause for hate, but rather for reform.
The primary suspects of this ignorance are gaps in America’s standard education system. From my schooling, I found that generally students aren’t provided with enough adequate information on past or present politics, nor are they pushed to understand why learning about history is important to foster a comprehensive perception of the present. Inadequate education guarantees a class without knowledge or skills to understand political workings or to think critically about them. This leaves a huge populous susceptible to government manipulation.
Another cause is a lack of emotional education. I see the reaction to vote for trump as one motivated by poor emotional understanding and introspection. It’s easy to pin undue hatred on people who are different from you when empathy is not a prioritized emotion. When we are not taught to think about what other people may be experiencing. I see the election of Trump to be an instinctual reaction to anger and fear. Anger is impulsive. It is usually rooted in another emotion, but it requires introspection to unearth. Much of what lays behind anger is fear, though Trump pushed people toward irrational trepidation. If people were able to think through their anger and realize that they were really just scared, then they are more likely to think about why they are scared. For example, there was a lot of fear of Muslims and Mexicans, though none of it is rooted in anything rational. Americans who are neither Muslim nor Mexican kill far more Americans. Trump paints a picture of a horrible America, one that we need to “make great again.” However, he fails to point out any hope.
Although I was sad, there was also a sense of beauty. When the news came, I burrowed into a friend’s arms. I saw everyone around me mourning similarly. Hugging as they cried together, arms around one another’s shoulders and heads and waists. Red eyes stared blankly at Blitzer’s overuse of graphics; he was starting to get the hang of the touch-screen. The fire-like glow of the floor lamp continued. A few played guitar, one harmonica. (You know you’re bummed out when you enjoy harmonica music). There was beauty in all of us being sad together. Everyone I was with accepted one another with love and openness. I looked around, faces warmed by the floor-light, and I was grateful for my company.
Movements that have changed the world to be a more loving, peaceful place have sprung from tragedy. Think of the protests and progress in response to the Vietnam War. Trump provides an ideal catalyst with which to push back against hatred and bigotry. Before the election, I was far more complacent with liking a Facebook post, assuming progress was inevitable. Now I know I need to get up and fight for what I experienced from my friends on November 8th: understanding and love. A social revolution is a daunting task. But looking around the room that night, I couldn’t imagine a better group, a better generation, to lead the way.