By Kristen Nixon
I don't hate Trump; I am crestfallen that he has been elected our president. Watching the votes come in Tuesday night, I couldn't focus on schoolwork. I refreshed the page every few seconds, trying to ensure myself that hate would not win. So much was at stake. As the night wore on, I became less sure of a positive outcome. Around 1 a.m., after hours of riding an anxious emotional rollercoaster, I made a decision for my mental health to go to sleep.
I woke up to see my worst fears confirmed, and was overcome with disbelief. I felt no motivation to proceed with my daily life; my classes suddenly seemed so trivial and irrelevant. I questioned the purpose of living in a world like this. With great effort, I eventually dragged myself out of bed and walked to class. My mind was consumed with emotionally charged thoughts, trying to grapple with the implications of the election. It was not Donald Trump who scared me the most; it was the knowledge that so many of my peers were okay with supporting the hate and discrimination he has so shamelessly stood for throughout his campaign.
I had to admit that the people who were voting for him were not a distant, uneducated, desperate minority. They were my peers. Smart women voted for Trump. Minorities voted for Trump. Educated adults voted for Trump. People close to me, that I trusted, voted for Trump. With as much media coverage as Trump's careless hateful statements received, ignorance of Trump's bigotry could not be a valid excuse. Somehow, half of my country justified his hateful, divisive, appalling statements.
I avoided my friends. I was afraid of how they would react. Would Trump supporters celebrate in this time of great anxiety for those whose identity has been threatened? Would people against Trump joke about the election and pretend it wasn't a big deal? I didn't want to risk losing any of the little faith in humanity I had left. I was not emotionally stable enough to engage in any kind of productive discourse. So I avoided people.
I sat in my first lecture with no intention of learning chemistry. I needed to understand. How did this happen? I read article after article, post after post on Facebook, story after story on Snapchat, trying to scramble together an acceptable explanation. Some posts were angry, and I identified with their anger. I resolved to get involved myself, to compose my own Facebook post, and the first sentence I felt had to be, "I cannot remain silent anymore." I couldn’t. I needed to help Trump supporters understand what they’d done. I needed to express my pain and to do my part to fight this. I could not piece together a coherent post. I was angry, but I wanted to be heard by people of opposing viewpoints. They would not respond in any kind of constructive way to anger. I thought I should list Trump's laundry list of offenses, as a basis for my argument, but that has been said a million times. Isn’t it common knowledge? What, honestly, could I add to this discussion? But I had to discuss. I could not remain silent anymore. However, I was not in a place in which I could reason. Some Facebook posts were remarkably calm and optimistic. Deep down I knew this was the right response, but I could not bring myself to feel this way. Gloom and pain consumed me.
One of my professors spoke of the election as a tragic event that people needed time to cope with, as if it were a terrorist attack or a shooting. I needed to take a time-out to cope, so I went back to bed. When I woke up, the news had sunk in even deeper. Trump is president. It’s really happening. I was ready to continue my own separate life and forget about it, so I went to the library.
My internal dialogue would not stop. Study breaks were spent devouring political news articles. My conclusion? There is no acceptable explanation. As a person who strongly believes in egalitarianism, I cannot accept a world that has taken such a drastic step away from equality. This is why there is hope. Trump did not create these sentiments; he only fueled them and brought them to the center of the public's attention. In a twisted way, we have him to thank for this. An informed citizen of the United States can no longer deny that we have serious problems with discrimination. These problems have become immediate, for everyone. The Band-Aid that protected me from seeing the world as it really is has been ripped off, and for the better. Now I am informed, and I have a deep commitment to making a difference.
Now, in these rough times, is when we will build the foundation for true equality. There may be a lot of people who are okay with condoning hatred and discrimination, but there are also a lot of people who are not and refuse to stay silent anymore. We will not fight fire with fire. We will work to extinguish the raging fires of hatred, knowing that the time to act must be now.