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.
It’s been a difficult week. Many of us, including myself, were left distraught by the election of Donald Trump as our next president. It was disturbing to see that his candidacy was not impeded by his flagrant violation of democratic norms, tolerance and simple human decency. Most notably, his admission to sexual assault and his bigoted attacks on Muslims, Latinos, immigrants were apparently no obstacle to achieving the most powerful office in the world. In response, the mood on our campus, and across the country, has been dour.
I, like most people, got 2016 very, very wrong. I thought last Tuesday would be a continuation of the status quo — a third term for President Obama. Instead, I, along with the rest of America, was sorely mistaken. We have now elected a reality television star as our president. And, not surprisingly, this reality television star has transformed the presidential transition process into a rerun of the Apprentice.
I’ve made it a habit of putting falsely serious titles on columns that are pretty much six paragraph jokes. My hope is always that some sentimental person out there clicks on the column hoping to shed an afternoon tear, but really just walks away semi-amused or at least somewhat confused. I’m excited to someday write the titles to articles your mom shares on Facebook. You won’t believe what I’ll come up with. But to be honest, I’m tired of all of this.
The period between the moment one casts their ballot and the moment the next President of the United States is announced feels far more heavy than I’d ever imagined. It’s the American population’s collective gasp — like that pause in music when the audience isn’t sure if the song is ending or if they’ve simply reached the silent millisecond before a beat drop. Last week, when I encountered my first introduction to this feeling, I watched a few campaign-recap videos to curb my pre-election jitters. The videos were reflective, taking an emotional look back at the election cycle and its ups and downs. To me, it all felt so personal: each scene a reminder of its context in my life.
Before Tuesday night I had expected the gnashing teeth of a poll-drowned American electorate to soon take my most ugly of muses. The moment when the Trump well would run dry was close at hand. Alas, it was not to be. The Donald shall be enthroned in the seat of power, like a lascivious Jabba the Hutt, for a period of no less than four years (barring impeachment or some act by the “Second Amendment people”). America will replace its first black president with the orange zealot who built his political career on questioning his predecessor’s citizenship.
There is a dreadful atmosphere here. One of my professors said he hasn’t seen the student body this disheartened since 9/11. Though I am sure that when Obama got elected in 2008, the same ambiance prevailed on university campuses in Texas. This is democracy and we need to accept it, live with it. We reap what we sow, after all.
At the height of the Cold War, when the U.S. and U.S.S.R. were competing in the development and testing of nuclear bombs, an Australian doctor named Helen Caldicott came to the United States. An expert in children’s cancers, she had taken leave of her profession to give three years of her life to raising awareness and urging people to stand up and speak out in opposition to further production and testing, which were both sending strontium 90 into the food chain and increasing the chance of a nuclear war. As she explained to audiences:
When I first grasped what a nuclear war would mean, I felt overwhelming grief. Then that grief turned to anger — anger at the “them” who were doing this to our planet. And then I turned my anger into energy; I determined that I would do all in my power to end the danger of nuclear war.