The aftermath of the election: Healing a divided country
In the days leading up to the election, our parents, American immigrants, prepared themselves to vote for the first time as new citizens of this country. They were already Americans in the broad sense, having raised their families here and created a life for themselves, teaching their children the American ideals of democracy, freedom and inalienable rights. They raised us in a society based on the principles of respect and tolerance. A society that allowed us to remain culturally faithful to our roots and yet still live a life plentiful in liberty, justice and the pursuit of happiness. However, as an immigrant, there is always a feeling of exclusion between the country you are from and the one you live in. Our families’ relationship with these two sides of our identities are often confusing, sometimes angry. Yet the day they cast their ballots, they felt unquestionably American, and for once there were no reservations attached to that feeling of patriotism.
On election night, as votes rolled in we all sat in disbelief, in tears and in fear. The man who is now president-elect had targeted both of our cultures directly. We had watched on television as he claimed that all Mexicans were rapists and that most Muslims were terrorists, that he had plans to deport all illegal immigrants and that he planned to ban all Muslims from entering this country. The validity or extent to which these statements can be carried out does not matter. It is the fact that they were said on this incredibly powerful national platform, and that people chose to accept them or turn a blind eye to them. Therein lies our fear.
Donald Trump’s victory speaks of a profound division in this country. It is a division between the white working class and the people who used to be in power. It is a division between targeted minorities and white America. For the marginalized white working class, a group of people left profoundly alone and afraid, this was their revolution, but also their call for help. In the same way, the groups of people targeted by the president-elect are now alone and extremely afraid. The result of this division is hate — hate on both sides that refuse to see the plight of the other. In the aftermath of this election, we braced ourselves for the angry social media posts from both sides, threats elevated in power by the anonymity of the screen. In our liberal “accepting” Palo Alto community, countless fingers angrily pointed at people who had voted for the president-elect, making them the enemy.
We felt the same anger that day, in disbelief that someone could support a man who represented the epitome of white supremacy, bigotry and racism. But we were also part of the problem. As we spoke out against hatred we created hatred. As people forgot to put a face to the those they were directing their hatred towards morality was left behind.
Locally, this hate speech transcended online platforms. At Gunn High School, Latino women were taunted by white males on three separate occasions according to a Facebook post shared by Palo Alto High School senior Santiago Ruiz. The media has exploded with multiple very real cases of hate speech in close proximity to our community.
The Thursday after the election we went on a sociology field trip to learn about homelessness in San Fransisco. Our teacher Benjamin Bolanos bravely led our class into this adventure, despite the grief we had all felt the day before. In the city streets that day, we witnessed a man scream “I knew no bitch could run this country,” trying to provoke our class.
As we walked away from the man who had intended to intimidate us with his hate, we were embraced by the loving community of San Francisco. Although we felt alone, helpless and angry, the city filled us with love and kindness. The calming aftermath of a storm.
Next, we encountered a man named Del. Del approached us in a flashy suit, a brown fedora and an American flag pin. The swagger and charm in his voice was captured in his story of triumph. Del had spent a long time homeless on University Avenue in Palo Alto and was now a leader of a movement to end homelessness in the city.
We also met Kelly, and the little dog nestled in the pocket of her backpack. Kelly was fighting against homelessness as well. She daringly led our class of 30 high school juniors and seniors through the streets of San Francisco, showing us a raw and real city that moved us to tears, while spreading a message of growth and a focus on doing good.
We stopped to sit on the lawns of City Hall, listening to the chants of children saying “I hate Trump.” Although at first, we laughed, we were also taken aback by the toll that this election had taken on families and even children. As a completely unplanned event on this trip, we joined a peaceful walk-out lead by high school students in front of city hall. We were enveloped in rainbow colors, in flags of every country and a message of love. The high school students in our area were speaking out, and their main message was against hate. A high school girl shared her story in the middle of the protest. Next to her stood two middle-aged African American men and a group of Latin American bikers, as well as high school students wrapped up in the colors of the rainbow, all listening intently and nodding their heads. This scene of love and empowerment stayed with us as we continued on to our next location.
We entered St. Boniface Church, the center to the Gubbio project, and were immediately enveloped in the scent of incense. The Gubbio project is an organization dedicated to giving the homeless population a place to sleep in the city. The pews were filled with rows and rows of resting people, basking in the colorful light coming from the large stained glass window.
Del’s words, Kelly’s strength, the power of protest, the kindness of the Gubbio project and Bolanos’ bravery, small acts in the name of decency and humanity, managed to inspire so much good, which led us to a new conclusion.
We must remember what we have control over and what we don’t. We do not have control over the results of this election anymore. We must respect the system that we trusted to elect presidents like Barack Obama, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. What we do have control over is the way we react. We do not believe in just accepting this outcome blindly. As Hillary Clinton said, “fighting for what’s right is always worth it.”
But we must remember that spreading hate from the roots of frustration and disbelief serves only to divide this country further. We must take the results of this election and the sparks that have been ignited and turn this into a powerful message. A message to those who feel alone and marginalized that they are accepted and loved by those around them regardless of the results of the election. We must teach each other that all people, regardless of color, race, sexual orientation, national origin, religious belief and gender are equal and deserving. We must teach each other to advocate for humanity and not just the portion of humanity that we personally identify with. In the midst of hate, we must be the ones to love, regardless of who you voted for. This is not about the election anymore, this is about healing a divided country. Donald Trump does not decide the direction that America goes in— that is for us to decide and for us to work on.
This was the first time our parents cast their ballot in America and their feelings shifted from pride to shame and anger. The results personally targeted the culture and people that we had grown up with. Yet, as their children, we feel that it is our obligation to show them that being American is still something you can be proud of.
How can we help? Here are some places to start:
Planned Parenthood– Providing health care and sex education to women and men worldwide
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)- is the country’s largest Muslim civil liberties organization.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People– Fighting against racial discrimination
National Immigration Law Center– Defending the rights of immigrants
American Civil Liberties Union– They promise to take Trump to court if he implements any policies that violate our rights as citizens
ProPublica– Non-partisan independent investigative journalism that works to keep people in power honest
The Trevor Project– Counseling and education for LGBTQ youth
EarthJustice- The largest nonprofit environmental law organization in the country, working to protect wildlife, for healthy communities, and for cleaner energy options.
And a longer list of Pro-Women, Pro-Immigrant, Pro-Earth, Anti-Bigotry Organizations that need your support.