We’re Broken, But Not Demolished
By: Connor Lenahan
“if you have the strength left to write tonight, write. a lot of people are going to need words to get them through the day.” – Rembert Browne, 1:30 AM, November 9, 2016.
Donald Trump is the President-elect of the United States. After an election cycle that seemed neverending, routinely finished, and deeply harmful to the collective psyche of the country, we have elected our next President.
The political impact with regard to policy is far too early to tell this morning in wake of last night’s election. However, the social impact this has had on millions of people cannot be overstated. Our President-elect has not only routinely made racist remarks about other cultures, but campaigned on them. He has outwardly demeaned women and expressed nothing but harmful ideas in the wake of a country struggling with sexual assault and consent. Nearly half of people that voted last night did so in support of a man that has openly mocked the disabled – a moment that remains personally devastating to me, and is unforgivable, as are his statements from the past two years as a collection.
I say this with the full self-awareness that I am privileged to live as the demographic embodiment of those not at risk in the wake of a Trump presidency: a straight, white, financially comfortable male from one of the few Democratic districts in Pennsylvania, living in Boston, MA. But I have been profoundly moved and heartbroken at the reactions of friends that I hold dear that have been the targets of Trump’s ideology throughout the campaign as this becomes more real than it ever should have been. The greatest joy that college has brought to my life is the ability to meet people from different races, religions, cultures, and genders, and to listen, learn, and discuss the world in a way that my suburban Pennsylvania population does not allow.
To my friends that are people of color, I am sorry. To my friends in the LGTBQ community, I am sorry. To my friends who are facing uncharted waters with regards to racial persecution, I am sorry. To the women closest to me, including my mom, grandmother, and girlfriend – all of whom should be able to celebrate the first woman president today – I am sorry. To anyone that is living in fear of this decision today, I am sorry. In no hyperbolic terms, I would sacrifice everything I have if it meant ensuring the safety and prosperity that some of the most incredible people I’ve met and known are deserved that is now challenged as a result.
The damage to our collective sense of country is already setting in. It’s heartbreaking to know that there are wonderful people that are in uncertainty about their lives today. But all we have now is the ability to hope.
I have tried from the moment the race became clear last night to pick myself up off of the mat and find a reason to be optimistic about this election with little success. I too am afraid. But the lessons we can take are deeply personal and should ring true for millions. The only way we can hope to unite this country and push for the acceptance and social progress necessary for true coexistence is to live every day as the person we want the country to be. We must be kind. We must be patient. We must not dwell in lost opportunities, and instead focus on how we can change the country for the better – if not for us, for the children that will soon take our place.
Kanye West has brought up an interesting idea in 2016: We only have 100 years on earth. What are you going to do to make it a better world than when you entered? This concept, ironically delivered from a floating stage at his recent tour, is emblematic of the change in society that we need and can be achieved, with unity.
Trump as a president has the possibility to be harmful, although many of his likely actions would have come with any republican candidate. There is no joy to the thought of the progress for equality that Barack Obama has fought for being undone in the near future. There is similarly no joy to be taken from the likelihood of a new Supreme Court justice that does not align with progressive ideologies. These are likely tenants of a Trump presidency, but the same would have been true for Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and the like.
The danger comes from radical suggestions about foreign policy and immigration. This is the peak point of anxiety with good reason. A small, dying ember of my heart says that cooler heads will prevail, an elected Trump will back off the most radical of his campaign ideas, and/or he is blocked from action by congress. This is not heartening, although with no mention of immigration in his acceptance speech last night, I am not completely giving up.
This is not a good day for our country. I did not vote for Donald Trump and will not in 2020. I am actively looking forward to voting against him in the next election. I can confidently say that I do not respect him as a person with any part of my soul, but I am in good conscience hoping that he doesn’t fuck up my country, surrounds himself with people who will prevent any historic disasters, and allows for my friends to live in peace.
Our only hopes are the following: To promise to appreciate those around us, practice kindness, and fight for tolerance every single day. To strongly resist any efforts to dismantle the bedrock of progress that has been accomplished over the last eight years. To vote in record numbers in 2018 and 2020 against Trump. Most importantly, to work as a country as best we can to try and improve what has become so damaged.
The sun rose today. Life needs to go on at some point. Panic is understandable today, and perhaps appropriate. But as I have learned from broken bone after broken bone, you need to get back up and fight for what needs to be done. America might have just broken both of its femurs, but we can overcome it.
Maybe this is blind optimism. Maybe this is insanity. But by god, this is all that’s going to get me through this nightmare of a reality. Again, I am sorry beyond all words to my friends and family that are living the worst possible permutation of this day. I am here for you, and we should be here for each other.
The world hasn’t ended yet, although things look grim. I personally hope to any force above that we can recover from this all.
I leave you with Stephen Colbert from last night in a speech that moved me to tears today. There are glimmers of hope out there yet, so please embrace them.