2017 Election Essays
Joy Amidst the 4 Year Fight
Today marks the second day since the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election devastated our world. Even writing out the words, reading them in my head one more time: “Donald Trump is our next president”, rings a dull and overbearing sensation in my skull. To renounce all eloquence in language: It sucks. It sucks more than anything that has shaken our nation in the past decade. We have to fight, take action, exert our intelligence, uphold our rights, and voice our presence now more than ever. Our America is not his.
We know all of this, we’ve heard and felt it in our waking and in our sleep. An inconvenient reality-check resonated among the millions after Trump and Trump supporters not only won the election, but began tearing down our society immediately after (Day 1 in Trump’s America). Racism, sexism, bigotry, and hate are seemingly everywhere. It is a stark reality to wake up to. But at least our eyes open, and they will stay open. We stand ready to give the fight our own hands — no gloves, full spirit.
In partaking in life as usual these past two days — school, work, friends, family — I found myself questioning my joy, the daily pleasures of people and places that I usually so readily share and promote. Joy in Trump’s America? It felt odd to smile or laugh amidst a time that frightens, scares, and intimidates the millions.
It felt strange to be happy in moments where I remained aware that these next 4 years would include some of the hardest battles in American history. I wondered: How are we to remain happy? How do we pursue the passions we intended on pursuing when there is so much to be done, when the human right to pursue life without restriction is now jeopardized for all those non-white, unprivileged, and unwilling to look the other way? How do we indulge in the blissful parts of life — smiling, laughing, and loving without worry — when we all need to worry now more than ever? How do we fight the fight while practicing gratitude, optimism, joy itself ...
I realized it is not in the questioning of how by which we find our answers, but through the active duty of living the opportunities in front of us, and fighting for the ones that exist beyond the horizon. Was Martin Luther King Jr. crippled by depression? Did Mother Teresa never smile? Social change and human justice does not require our minds to be broken, sullen, or washed over, though at times it may seem like that. In fact, I believe successful social change requires the opposite. It requires vibrant energy and fervent activism, a mind that shines so bright others cannot help but bear to see it. Mindful passion for what is right and what is wrong that can fuel the difficult task of approaching the muddled states of our world with precision, intellect, and a leveled temper.
I truly believe that joy is one of our strongest weapons when it comes to civic engagement. It is our duty to not only think about the things that are going to happen, the problems that we currently face, and the solutions that need to be devised, but also how we may best be there for our society, and for the communities put under pressure. And no doubt, we work best and most diligently when joy is at our embrace.
Laying in bed all day, ignoring work and school — buckling a metaphorical seatbelt over your waist in a car headed for unpleasant thoughts and general pessimism — is not what our society needs. Nor how we best serve the roles we must now assume. It sucks, it does. But life as we know it is not over. We have each other. We have the ocean. We have jokes. We have sunsets. We have things to laugh about, dreams to pursue, experiences to keep us happy, productive, and in high spirits. It is our right to participate in the wonderful parts of life as much as it is our duty to fight against the damaged. And if you think about it, these wonderful parts are exactly what we are fighting for.
So during these next four years, let's not forget to smile. Let's not forget to run, hike, travel, write, read, or participate in any of the things that give us joy. Happier people have more energy, more open minds, and more cognitive resources to dedicate to the causes and movements that need us most. In taking care of ourselves, we are promoting a better us to fight on the front lines. Let's stick to our dreams and pursue them. Continue teaching, learning how to code, investigating the neurobiological implications of the drug with a funny name. These things bind us together, promote intellectual thinking, and encourage alternative perspective-taking. Let's pursue our dreams even stronger than before, in efforts of making a positive difference for our country, and an undying contribution to the rights that are now at stake. Let's make new dreams for our country, for the ones who feel our new president's hate more deeply than anyone else, for the environment that hosts no hoax. Let's get directly involved on the front-lines as much as we can. The people at them are enthusiastic, driven, intelligent - perhaps the best of us.
Let's remember that every joy we harness is a privilege — privelages some do not have, privileges some must fight to hold onto. Let's remember that every action we carry out influences others in undetectable ways, the inclusion of a stranger or conversation with a friend. Recognize that in these actions we harness opportunities for immeasurable influence on the positive directions of our world, as long as we are aware and responsible of how our intentions and decisions cascade onto others.
Let us take our joy and magnify it. Smile as widely as we can, laugh louder than we ever have before. Appreciate our happiness and use it to fuel the ways in which we may positively affect our world, our country, and the results of these next 4 years.
May we foster joy amidst the 4 year fight, and fight stronger than we ever have before.
Re-defining the Trump Effect
Yesterday America mourned. Silence filled the air, chatter less light-hearted, eyes dimmed by the prior night. Many of our hearts are heavy with the undeniable state of politics our nation faces these next 4 years, or better yet, our world. Many of us are angry and active, ready to fight for the progress we have accomplished these past several decades. It is embarrassing to imagine Donald Trump portraying our country on international media. It is tragic to imagine that the face of our flag shows no compassion, and portrays so much hate. It is scary, because if the big guy does it, others will find no fault in complying.
But amidst the heavy hearts and sullen eyes, there are bright sides in being forced to recognize the most disturbing parts of our nation. These bright sides are found in a fortified solidarity, the augmented connection that arises from a common fight. Take a look at the universities around the country — the thousands of students at each campus already organizing, speaking, sharing thoughts, concerns, and avenues towards action. Take a look at social media — the millions of posts ensuring others that their fight will not be waged alone, ensuring America that the decision we made last night was not an accurate portrayal of all red, white, and blue. Take a look at your phones and computers — the texts and emails from family and friends extending nurturing words to lean on, and a common message to grasp onto.
The Trump Effect was coined during the presidential campaigns when Donald Trump’s bigoted behavior and fear-based policies were shown to have influenced the behavior of young children. Having a blatantly racist, childish, and incompetent figure as a national icon affected many students, instilling more fear and anxiety in children of color and increasing racial tensions within the classroom.
This was the Trump Effect before November 8, 2016. Now, it is happening again. Hundreds of individual cases of racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual intolerance have taken place across the country, immediately following Donald Trump’s elect. But this Trump Effect will not be sustained, it cannot be used to strengthen or unify the ignorant crowds that derail individuals based on their backgrounds, the people who regress the progress that has been made the past several decades, or the cowards who commit acts of terror on the basis of their own blind, elitist views.
So what is the Trump Effect then? Millions of people heart-broken, confused, yet ready to take a stand. Millions of people inspired to ensure that their country is not the heartless illustration of a privileged, ignorant, vindictive individual. Trump broke us down. And now we have the opportunity to glue ourselves together - stronger, brighter, and more diverse than we ever stood before. In a world where Donald Trump undeniably stands as the President of the United States for the next four years, we can coin a new Trump Effect.
This is the Trump Effect of today: a conglomerating cause for the people, experiences, backgrounds, and conflicts that he attempts to pick apart, a symphonic organization of the voices he attempts to silence.
The Trump Effect is a stronger, more connected, more organized, more passionate, more unstoppable us. He, she, they, African-Americans, Muslim-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Asian-Americans, immigrants, undocumented individuals, refugees and asylum-seekers. The Trump Effect forces us to recognize that we may all assume integral roles in the forward progression of our society at large, in unison and in hearing. We adhere from different backgrounds and fight our fights, but in collaborating and recognizing one another we may fight for the America we believe in, not the one broadcasted last Tuesday night.
We are our friends, our families, our co-workers, our mentors. We are black, yellow, brown, white. Gay, straight, cis, transgender. Undocumented, dislocated, kept from citizenship. Poor, middle-class, or fighting for all of the above. We are Americans. And this is our Trump Effect.