I signed up for the “New York Times morning updates” a few months ago, but I’ve gotten into the habit of deleting the e-mails before I have a chance to fully scan them. I know you can’t escape the news, but I don’t think finding out about the Ann Coulter-Berkeley controversy or the implosion of Bill O’Reilly’s career at 7 a.m. on the dot every morning is necessarily the most effective start to one’s day. Lately, I’ve found that keeping up with current events feels like a high-stakes game of whack-a-mole, where every time a travel ban is struck down, a healthcare bill pops up, and so on. For every positive news story, it feels like there are ten negative ones (and one thinkpiece explaining why the positive one wasn’t actually all that positive). But still, I’m trying to figure out what’s important, and apparently millions and millions of people — including many of you — have it figured out better than I have.
One of my favorite columnists, Jonathan Capehart, wrote a piece last Friday on President Trump’s first 100 days in office, titled “An Appreciation.” In it, Capehart says that Trump’s presidency hasn’t been as bad as he expected, and states that “[Trump] is responsible for the greatest surge in civic participation in half a century.” And while I’m not sure I would go so far as to say that exchanging Trump’s leadership for civic participation is a worthy trade, I think Capehart is spot-on in identifying the growth those who didn’t get what they wanted last November. We’re coming together now because we have to. I wish we didn’t have to, but at least we are.
After Trump won, I wrote a column on what people could do, especially here in Ithaca, if they were upset with the outcome of the election. What I suggest in that column doesn’t even cover a fraction of what I’ve seen people doing since.
Yesterday, I was driving through downtown Ithaca to get lunch with a friend and she pointed out a spot that she had trekked to for a town hall held by Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY). Reed, a Republican whose oddly-shaped district includes Ithaca, “conveniently” planned a town hall at 7 a.m. on a Saturday, very far away from his collegiate constituents, after a snowstorm that left many sidewalks un-shoveled. The TCAT doesn’t run that early, and my friend doesn’t have a car, so her group of friends walked all the way from North Campus to outer edges of the Commons. And despite all of the barriers to attending this town hall, according to my friend, so many people showed up at the venue that it overflowed, with people standing in extra spaces (and outside).
As she was telling me this, we saw another huge crowd of people and realized that we were driving right by the March for Science. The weather was disgusting; drizzling, chilly and overcast. But people were smiling, yelling and holding up their signs as part of a protest that feels like it’s been going on since Nov. 9.
It’s easy to spiral into a state of cynicism, because the overlap between things we should be critical of and things that exist in our world seems to be growing rapidly. The world is complicated right now, and sometimes it feels like we are unequipped — whether it’s the number of Democrats in Congress or the free time we lack to spend protesting — to take on these challenges. But my friends who went to Reed’s town hall, the Ithacans at the March for Science, and a whole lot of you guys, make me hopeful that someday I won’t be so dismayed by those morning e-mails from The New York Times.
Jacqueline Groskaufmanis is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Dissent runs alternate Monday’s this semester.