When the clock strikes midnight, a sense of fear and angst is said to erupt. This common trope very much describes the events that transpired this week. On Wednesday, Nov. 9, the clock struck three hours past midnight when Donald Trump was elected to the presidency. No one could have predicted this outcome. The pollsters, mainstream media and even Republicans ruled him out. Today, we must come to the realization that Donald Trump is our president because half of America elected him to office — a telling indicator of disunity in our country.
On election night, I sat patiently, awaiting the results with an unclear image of a Trump presidency and even a Clinton presidency. Fatigued and a little stressed by my daily routine, the election was an additional headache—a process I did not truly value until now. As I watched the CNN telecast, thoughts of the physical makeup of this country captured my mind. No part of the United States was identical to another. California, undoubtedly the most easy-going state, proposed its own secession under the title “Calexit” (a cousin of Brexit, obviously) after Trump won the presidency. Michigan and Wisconsin, historically democratic states, turned bright red for the first time in 30 years. In coveted states like North Carolina and Florida, the electoral map teetered between red and blue for several hours. I was surprised, even scared, to see Elon University as half blue and half red.
I say all of this because the boundaries between party lines are a vivid depiction of the boundaries between the American people. Disenchanted with habits of the past, many cried for change. Frustrated with international politics, many sought out seclusion. Disappointed with our governmental infrastructure, many sought out an outlier.
It is important to emphasize that Trump's divisive rhetoric has instigated horrific and unacceptable acts of hatred towards minority groups. And though I lean more toward Clinton than Trump, I empathize with both sides: blue and red. Generalizing Trump supporters as xenophobes, racists, and homophobes only intensifies division. Asking hard working people to leave the country has monstrous social and political implications. Portraying a particular, one-sided image of America through mainstream media will also do no good. Right now, our country looks more like an assorted food tray distributed on an airline flight, than the overcooked “melting pot” we constantly yearn for.
At Elon, empathy is crucial in this uncertain age of democracy. In 2016, we need to listen to the Rust Belt states, the Californians, the North Carolinians and all other parts of our country. We need to pay attention to the physical and political global climate. Most importantly, we need communicate with each other on the fundamentals that make our country so driven, impassioned and historically unique. I am a minority in this country, but I am part of a majority in my ability to exercise my civic duties. If our president fails us with divisive rhetoric, we have the right to check his power.
I am cognizant of and grapple with deep-seated fears that are inherent in all chapters of this country’s history. But when we channel our fears into hopefulness, we are capable of achieving progress and attaining prosperity. This is the America we must hold onto: a country that supports ingenuity, perseverance and people of different backgrounds. America is great, but we have the opportunity to make it better. This election year is unprecedented, but it is definitely not insurmountable.