November 16, 2016

LEUNG | And So We Love

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A week has passed since my initial feelings of anger, pain and shock over the election. There are people who have already so eloquently summed up their thoughts on the results and shared in my grief. But I can’t forget that morning, feeling the heaviness in my heart, and thinking,  I’ve never been so disappointed to call myself an American right now. As I walked to class, there was a melancholy that permeated the campus. Students’ heads were bowed. The air was quiet. We were all feeling so much, trying to make sense of the turn of events. The sadness and disappointment was almost tangible. I returned home from classes and cried.

I know that there are people who criticize these “liberal reactions” to the election. There are people who say we are handling the election results poorly. There are people on campus who have already criticized the cry-in and walkout and are tired of our whining.

The truth is, I don’t care. I don’t care if people say Trump won’t be “that bad.” I don’t care if people say we are creating an even bigger divide by ostracizing Trump supporters and voters. I don’t care about each and every excuse people are coming up with to make us feel bad for fearing what the country will be like for the following years to come.

And it’s because my sadness for the people Trump has continually attacked and oppressed is overwhelming. As a woman, he has enraged me more times than I can count. As a human being, he has driven me to the brink of madness. But the only reason I’m not escaping this country in order to bathe in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s glory is because there is too much at stake here. I will not leave the people who will now be increasingly attacked for who they love, where they come from, what color their skin is or who they worship.

Hate crimes immediately escalated the day Trump was elected the next president of the United States. Messages about lynchings were sent to black students at the University of Pennsylvania. A dugout wall in Wellsville was painted with a swastika and the words “Make America White Again.” A man in Ann Arbor, Michigan approached a Muslim student and told her he would set her on fire with his lighter if she didn’t remove her hijab. The message, “Black lives don’t matter and neither does your votes” was painted onto a wall in Durham, North Carolina. A high school student in Redding, California handed out “deportation letters” to half a dozen students. The outcome of this election has had immediate impacts — ones that have brought our country back decades. There are no justifications, excuses or explanations for these hate crimes. We have, indeed, brought America back.

But this is not our America. This is a place known for its freedom, tolerance and diversity. More than 300 incidents of intimidation and harassment have been reported now. These are just the hate crimes that have been brought to the public’s attention — there are many more that have occurred and will continue to because of Trump’s presidency. The fact that such a despicable man will take a position held by men like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama pains me.

I am, at the moment, not able to fully understand people’s motives behind voting for Donald Trump. I know acquaintances and family members who made that decision, and am trying not to hold onto so much hate when I think of that.

That’s where I’m hoping to end up. With everything that has happened — since the very beginning of both candidates’ campaigns — I’m holding onto the strand of hope that love trumps hate. I remember watching the Democratic National Convention and being struck by how unified it was. The speakers talked about hope, of coming together, of moving forward. The Republican National Convention radiated fear and division. The contrast was so great that I knew the only hopeful vision for America was one of unity.

Fear is not something we can allow to infiltrate our lives. We need to love and support one another. Never has a man who publicly expressed such intolerance, hate, fear, racism and sexism become president. Yet again, never has there been a time when an outpouring of such immense grief was expressed after the results of an election. This collective grief has strengthened the people who want to move forward progressively. We feel each other’s pain and know that the country is in danger if we don’t stand up for what is just. The hate crimes that have occurred throughout this country because of Trump’s victory are disturbing and horrifyingly real. America is better than that. We can not continue to move backwards, allowing humans to be ashamed for what they wear on their heads or where their parents came from.

A professor in one of my English classes said, “Never forget how you felt that first day.” I don’t think I’m the only person in this country who finds it impossible to forget, no matter how blissful that ignorance would be. Because together we must love. We won’t promote fear or hatred or violence. We love.

Gaby Leung is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].Serendipitous Musings appears alternate Thursdays this semester.