It is one week since Donald Trump’s victory, and everything in my world is a little darker now. I am a senior in high school, not even old enough to vote. I live in California, a state that would proverbially explode if it turned any bluer on the electoral map. I am a woman, making me a member of one of the many groups of individuals that has been a victim of Donald Trump’s disrespect and denigration. I fear for the environment. I fear for the message that we are sending to our youth and to other countries, both allies and enemies, as a result of our choice.
But unlike some of the others who harbor similar feelings of resentment toward our President-elect, I do not have to fear being deported or separated from my family. I do not feel like there is a target on my back because of the color of my skin. I am not a member of the LGBTQ+ community who fears that I will be subject to newfound intolerance and harassment, or in some cases that my right to marriage will be revoked. Some of the things I do have, though, are morals, empathy, a passion for politics, and a firm belief in civil rights. And the knowledge that all of these things are very real fears for many of the people around me has shaken me to my core.
Each day I check the news, bracing myself for what I will read. Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook are flooded with personal accounts of people that have been physically and verbally assaulted by Trump supporters in the last four days alone. Through their actions (after a victory, mind you), Trump supporters have made their message loud and clear: All minorities are a glaring encroachment upon our newfound Trump-Land. Civil rights no more.
Assault stories continue to surface. Anti-Trump protests appear to be intensifying nationwide, but they cannot go on forever. At a certain point, we must ask ourselves a question, or five. What now? How do we navigate a Trump presidency, and how will we navigate the coming weeks? How do we go about finding common ground with Trump supporters, both across the nation and within our families and daily lives? What caused these people to become so full of hate? And finally, how can we actually make progress?
The first thing that needs to stop immediately is every protest established on the basis of the “Not My President” movement. People who promote this slogan are essentially removing all sense of personal responsibility from the situation. If Trump is “not your president,” you are essentially saying that the state of the nation under his administration is no longer your problem. By all means continue to peacefully protest, but do so with a goal in mind, whether it is a demand for respect or a desire to have your voice heard. Chanting “not my president” only perpetuates a state of denial. We cannot change the fact that Trump has been elected, but we can make it clear that we will not be silenced and that we will forever fight for the various causes that we believe in. We must be politically active citizens, protesting with a message in mind that is bigger than aimlessly showing our distaste.
Second, individuals from both sides must determine the extent to which they are willing to sacrifice their fundamental values and beliefs for the sake of coming together. This is a situation in which it is extremely difficult to unify, because each side differs from the other in ways that are fundamental to how we define ourselves as people. We are starkly divided on issues that make up our very identities. I urge you to think about whether or not you are willing to place yourself in the position of the other side in order to better understand their views and reasoning, and whether or not you are able to compromise.
For example, some may be able to compromise on Trump’s economic plans but draw the line at his xenophobic views on immigration. Others may not feel capable of compromise at all. The answers to these questions are different for each person, but they must be clear ones as they help define what role you can play in the unifying process. If you cannot compromise on any of the issues at hand, your job is to continue fighting relentlessly for what you believe in. If you can compromise on some of the issues at hand, your job is still to continue fighting relentlessly for what you believe in, but simultaneously play the mediator and contribute to the nationwide goal of creating progressive legislation that, in theory, satisfies both sides to some degree.
Trump supporters, Clinton supporters, and every group in between can all revel in one shared emotion: dissatisfaction. One of the many reasons that Trump supporters voted the way they did was because they felt that the voice of the blue collar, working-class American was not being heard by mainstream politics. Hillary supporters fear that their voice will not be heard by President-elect Trump. Those who voted for a third party or declined to vote at all did not see their values represented in the choices available for president and will continue to feel that their voice is not being heard by the corrupt, two-party system.
We all want to have our voices heard. And despite our varying definitions of success, we all want our country to be as successful as possible. With that in mind I urge you to take action, continue to fight tirelessly for what you believe in, and do your best to live courageously and without fear. Don’t flee to Canada. Don’t abandon responsibility for the situation by declaring that he isn’t your president. Rise up and take action, because our future is directly affected by what we decide to do right now.