Verbum Ultimum: Three Days Later

Where do we go from here?

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 11/10/16 12:16am

This election was about race. This election was about gender. This election was about sexuality. This election was about religion. This election was about inequality.

It does not matter how many boastful Donald Trump supporters or conciliatory Trump detractors say otherwise. These facts cannot be ignored. In the wake of what has been almost universally described as the largest political upset in our country’s history, many of us are looking around and asking the same question: what do we do now? How do we deal with this? How do we go about our everyday lives — going to class, work, practice, club meetings, job interviews, Foco — knowing what we now know? How are we supposed to function with the knowledge that so many people in our country are at the very least apathetic enough about issues of race, gender, sexuality, religion and inequality to elect someone like Trump to the highest office in the land?

People have spent the last 48 hours arguing that this wasn’t what the election was really about. Instead, they claim that it was about rejecting the system, or about the unlikability of former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. However, we challenge you to tell that to two Muslim women who were attacked on their college campuses on Wednesday. We challenge you to tell that to Jose Antonio Vargas, a gay Filipino journalist and immigration activist, who has received countless threats online from empowered Trump supporters. We challenge you to say that to every person of color, every LGBTQIA+ person, every non-Christian, every immigrant, every differently abled person and every woman who had to wake up on Wednesday knowing that they lived in a country whose president-elect has specifically targeted, harassed, demonized and oppressed them. Support for Trump does not mean that you wholeheartedly support the oppression of all of these peoples — but it cannot be denied that supporting him means that you are at the very least indifferent to their oppression.

The other question we have been asking ourselves, as we try to go through our usual routine in a numb stupor, is: how could this happen? From polls and even the atmosphere on campus, on social media and other platforms, it seemed so certain that Clinton was going to win. That was a given. We had already moved on to the after. How were Trump supporters going to deal with his loss? Would the country rally behind her after this venomous election? Would the GOP implode after this crushing defeat? We had to assume she was going to win. To many of us, the alternative was insane. It was a reality that only belonged in speculative Vox articles, bits on late-night talk shows or episodes of satirical television shows like “Veep” or “Black Mirror.” How could it be any other way? All the people in our classes, everyone we hung out with, every celebrity we followed on Instagram and almost everyone on our newsfeed was sure she would win. Even Nate Silver said so.

We all built little echo chambers for ourselves that were so small and isolated and perfect that we couldn’t hear the mob yelling right outside, and the reality is that mob is almost completely white. They didn’t elect a racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, islamaphobic, ableist sexual predator because they are evil, or because they want to see their own country burn to the ground. Nobody is sitting in their lair and laughing maniacally at what they have wrought. Or at least we hope not. They elected Trump out of fear of losing their dominant place in a changing world. Inch by inch, through hard work and sacrifice and blood, marginalized groups have been demanding the country that for so long had so little regard for their well-being start to work for them too. Power, to Trump supporters, is a zero-sum game. If someone else is being given more power, it must mean that some of what is theirs is being taken away.

These are people who are afraid: a man who is afraid that marriage no longer means what he thought it means; a woman who is afraid that her daughter might go off to college and end up sitting next to a Muslim who surely wants nothing more than to see her stoned in the street; a man who is afraid of being forgotten because the movies, television shows and comics that he has always used to escape his life no longer star people who look and think like him. These are the people who wanted a Trump presidency.

This election, in many ways, has been about fear: the fear held deeply by Trump supporters and now the fear held by those who oppose him. We need to acknowledge that fear. Only when we acknowledge the hatred that keeps us divided can we move forward in a meaningful way. bell hooks describes this culture of fear in “Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope.”

“Dominator culture has tried to keep us all afraid, to make us choose safety instead of risk, sameness instead of diversity,” hooks writes. “Moving through that fear, finding out what connects us, revelling in our differences; this is the process that brings us closer, that gives us a world of shared values, of meaningful community.”

How are we, the people on this campus and beyond who never thought this could happen, to reconcile the world we thought we lived in with one in which Trump won 279 electoral votes? We have to start by stepping out of the echo chambers we have built for ourselves. More than anything, this election has shown us a more accurate picture of America than any of the Uproxx videos or Odyssey essays in our newsfeeds. We have to begin to inhabit a world in which we are aware that people either support or are complacent about the normalization of violence against marginalized groups. Only by shedding our arrogant, privileged, elitist illusion can we look this problem in its ugly, wretched face and begin to combat the structures that support it.

We absolutely do not need to accept a world in which the thoughts, speech and actions espoused by people like Trump are normal. We do not need to respect people’s opinions, beliefs and actions when those opinions, beliefs and actions do not respect our identities. We do need to realize, however, that this is the world we live in. It always has been. Only then can we work, shout, march, fight, give it every little thing we’ve got and then some to make that world a little bit better.

The editorial board consists of the opinion editors, the production editor and the editor-in-chief.