On November 4, 2016, I got into my car, drove into the inner city, and cast my ballot for the presidential election. This was my first time being an active voter since I first arrived to the country about a decade ago.
This time around eight years ago, I recall a middle school aged me staring wide-eyed at a small T.V. screen when a news anchor announced Barack Obama as the president of the United States.
At that time, I wasn’t fully knowledgeable about such things as the electoral college or “right-wing” and “left-wing” supporters. My naivety painted pictures of the executive order taking full control of a helpless nation, sans the aide of a system of checks and balances.
That’s why Obama seemed like Superman at the time. Also, he happened to be the first black president of the United States, which I thought was pretty amazing.
For the past few months I’ve found myself absorbed in the world of mass media. At my university, I was taking classes in writing, leading the school newspaper, and reading the news daily.
I quickly became aware of the rhetoric spewed from both parties during the race to presidency.
It was particularly surprising witnessing Donald Trump’s upfront, controversial stance during his entire campaign; Specifically, his commentary on muslims, disabled people, women, and his admittance to sexually degrading actions against women.
Although this was a disastrous road to presidency, many believed–including myself–the good would ultimately outweigh the bad, and that more people would decide on November 8th what was good.
From my perspective, there was no way Trump could inherit the office after Obama’s administration. This purely sounded like a horrendous fictional tale.
On election night, I sat on my bed, my laptop opened to a wide screen, watching as the results trickled in. As updates rushed in on which state each candidate had won, I jumped back and forth from reading status updates on my news feeds to tuning back to the news. Trump successfully won his expected states, and I thought to myself that it was still early on in the night to panic.
When the clock struck midnight, I began to get cold feet. Remember that one horrendous fictional tale about a misogynistic, xenophobic man actually becoming president? As time ticked, the possibility of this story actually began to settle in and take shape. My eyes grew weary, my palms became slightly sweaty, and I decided to shut down and call it a night. I’d find out in the morning.
I woke up during the wee hours to find out that I was now an active character in that horrendous tale. Somehow, the story had been written and successfully published. There’s a nation full of pain, while there’s also a nation full of pride on the other end of this outcome. We find ourselves divided over the events of the past few days. Protests are actively spewing in the streets. Friends stand shielded against each other behind virtual armors, using their fingers as weapons to type words of hate on their screens.
We divide ourselves through political labels, demoralizing opposing views with words laden with venom, pain, and contempt. Through the midst of all this, understandably, we hurt. What makes it even more painful is that we hurt because others don’t understand that pain. Somehow, we forget to love and bury our contempt. Somehow, we forgot to see the bigger picture. Sometimes we need that reminder.
So here’s my plea to all those that are hurt and understandably angry: I respect your grief, your passion for justice, and your intolerance for hate. Instead of destruction, we must stand in peaceful assembly. Instead of hate, we must love those who are blinded. It may be too early on to heal, but remember that we will heal.
We can only get stronger from here. Together, we will rise.