I did not expect to awaken on the morning of Nov. 9 filled with sadness, anger, and fear. Like so many of us at the 5Cs, I cast my first vote for President of the United States the day before. I proudly wore my “I voted” sticker throughout the afternoon, not doubting for a moment that by the end of the night, Hillary Clinton would be president-elect. Instead, the electoral map on my laptop slowly blushed a feverish red.
Just over a week later, the reality of Donald Trump’s victory still has not sunk in. I am filled with sadness for Hillary Clinton. For elderly women who will not witness a female president. For little girls who will grow up with a misogynist in the Oval Office. I’m afraid for the undocumented, for people of color, for Muslims, women, and the LGBTQ+ community. And I’m furious that Trump is my president, not because he’s from the other “team,” but because of the hate he espouses.
Many have argued that we cannot blame those who voted for Trump; rather, we must take collective responsibility for his election. It’s never productive to blame, I agree. But it is equally important for us to remember that only a little over a quarter of eligible voters actively chose a bigot for president. Only a quarter voted for Trump, while thousands of individuals made calls and knocked on doors, urging their fellow Americans to vote against his hate.
Synecdoche is a figure of speech in which the whole is used to represent a part (or vice versa). It is what allows us to say that “America” chose Trump. It’s a powerful tool, one that allows us to foster a sense of community by subsuming individuality. It creates fraternity, loyalty, and unity; to challenge it is potentially dangerous, certainly divisive. But when synecdoche brings us to dismiss the time, efforts, and goodness of those individuals who did all they could to keep Trump out of the White House—then its shortcomings must be acknowledged.
To say that Trump’s election defines us as a nation is the first step toward hopelessness. I’m not advocating that we dismiss those who voted for Trump, nor that we blame them. As many have already pointed out, not all are bigots; some are afraid, disillusioned, or disenfranchised. Unfortunately, their choice represents a resurgence of the worst parts of American history, aspects of our identity that we hoped had faded into the periphery.
Yes, the United States has a history of racism, of misogyny and xenophobia, of homophobia and religious intolerance. But we must remember that at every stage of that history there have been those who resisted: women who protested for the right to vote, participants in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, those who fought for the U.S. to accept Jewish refugees during World War II, those who have advocated for LGBTQ+ rights. They are the ones who have brought us forward slowly and sometimes painfully, crafting our future step by difficult step, bringing us closer to a truly great America in which everybody—regardless of color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, and immigration status—has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Hillary Clinton gave a speech to the Children’s Defense Fund on Wednesday. It was her first appearance since the election. “Stay engaged on every level,” she enjoined her audience. “We need you. America needs you. Your energy, your ambition, your talent. That’s how we get through this. That’s how we help to make our contributions bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice.”
America is not dead. Threatened, yes, but life will remain so long as we channel our disappointment, our anger, fear and sadness—and any shreds of optimism that may remain—into loving one another, protecting each other, and peacefully resisting the hateful actions Trump will both execute and inspire. Let that response be what defines Trump’s America.
Natalie McDonald PO '19 hails from Los Angeles and majors in history.