Based on the political landscape of Berkeley, I think it’s safe to say many of us were devastated Tuesday night. There were tears; there was shock; there were people yelling expletives at the president-elect, his running mates and the swing states that voted red across the Unit 2 courtyard. It was a combined fury the likes of which I have not seen in a long time. I caucused for Bernie Sanders and voted for Hillary Clinton in the general election — this was a result I neither expected nor wanted.
Many of my friends woke up on Wednesday fearful of what a Donald Trump administration would mean for them and their loved ones. The rhetoric thrown around by the campaign and its supporters has made many women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community feel unsafe. I attend one of the most progressive colleges in the country, but for the first time, I’m worried that my skin color will make me a target. I’m worried that we will lose the progress we’ve made on environmental policy and foreign relations. I’m worried that the country I love so deeply will be moving in a direction antithetical to what I had hoped. Many feel the same way, and to them, I say that we still have work to do.
In order to decide how to proceed, it’s important to think about how we got here. Donald Trump’s candidacy was a product of the sentiment that our government no longer works to serve the interests of the masses; statistically, these people are largely white Americans in rural areas. Those opposed to that movement were largely minorities and people under 40, who feared that it would be too exclusive and xenophobic. Right from the beginning, Trump supporters characterized the people who disagreed with them as “corporate shills” or “entitled millennials” and were themselves painted as racists and bigots. The only thing this accomplished was to make it very difficult to have an open-minded, constructive conversation about politics. Every conversation, it seemed, consisted of people aggressively putting down anyone who disagreed with their positions.
During this election season, our society has been more polarized than any other time in recent memory, and I believe it’s simply because people don’t listen to each other. Trump supporters ignored the concerns of minorities worried about their own safety. Likewise, Clinton supporters turned a deaf ear to cries of corruption and corporate rule. Very few people were willing to extend the olive branch across the aisle and figure out a compromise.
I believe that in spite of all the things I and my loved ones are worried about, we’ll be OK four years from now. We’ll still be standing, but only if we make an effort to have those tough conversations that no one did in 2016. So the next time you meet someone who voted differently than you did, please don’t dismiss them. Don’t write them off as racist or entitled. Instead, sit down with them for five minutes and actually listen to them. Listen to their fears, their concerns and their hopes, and actually try to understand what makes them tick. Show them that you’re trying to understand. And if you feel so inclined, disagree, but do so respectfully. During election season, it always feels like there are two sides, but the fact is that we’re all Americans, and we all want what’s best for the country.
As President Barack Obama said mere hours before the Trump campaign reached 270 electoral votes: “No matter what happens, the sun will rise in the morning.” Maybe we weren’t happy Wednesday morning, but rise the sun did. Presidency aside, Oregon elected the first openly LGBTQ+ governor in the history of the country last night, and California elected the second Black woman to ever serve in the United States Senate, and these are the things that give me hope. There will always be a tomorrow, and the fight is far from over. Let’s strive for a little more understanding and a little more compassion, and the end result will be a society and a government that better works to serve all of us.