The following post was shared on Facebook by Allen Yuan on Wednesday, November 9, 2016. This piece has been published with the author’s permission on The Forest Scout.
As I’ve been watching the election results come in tonight, one question that keeps resurfacing in my social media circles is how this could have possibly happened – how could the polls have been so wrong? How could we have elected Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States? How could we have screwed America over so badly? A general sense of despondency has permeated my house lounge throughout the night as positive results for Trump have rolled in, and I am sure that many of you out there share this sentiment. In addition, I attended a “primal scream” on the quad of UChicago at midnight to vent frustration, and at this event, I observed a burning of a Trump/Pence flag as students screamed “F*** Donald Trump!”. Watching the burning embers of the flag and the names inscribed on it, standing in the middle of the quad at midnight while over a hundred UChicago students chanted insults and profanities and screamed in anger and frustration (I never counted exactly how many), I became acutely aware of exactly how voters for both sides are connected in this election cycle – in this sense of frustration and anger, in this despondency, in a feeling that one’s voice has been lost or that it simply no longer matters.
Neither candidate is perfect. Both have their benefits and both have their drawbacks – the crux of our decision is to weigh each candidate’s strengths against their weaknesses. In my personal opinion, I believe Clinton would have been a better president that Trump will be, in terms of stability, policy, and competency, which is why I voted for her. However, you are free to agree or disagree with me on this point, and this is not the important thing. The important point here is that people across America are angry, they have channeled that anger into getting Trump elected, and we cannot say that the anger of these people is invalid or that it does not matter, for we risk marginalizing them and dividing the nation further in a time when we desperately need unity. The way I see it, from their perspective, Trump was the perfect figure to give the establishment a giant middle finger – to topple the insiders in Washington and elect someone who was sympathetic to their plight. However, in choosing Trump as the manifestation of their anger, they have done a disservice to the Republic – they have chosen someone who divides instead of unifies, who may serve as a release of their anger but who will anger many more with his hateful rhetoric. Trump effectively shifts the burden of this anger from his constituency, but this is not the solution we need – simply shifting this anger and despondency to the subjects of Trump’s rhetoric: women, the LGBTQ+ community, Mexicans, Muslims, and other racial minorities and marginalized groups, cannot possibly be effective. Who is to say their lives, opinions, and dreams are lesser than yours, especially after you have fought so hard to be heard? How is this consistent? We cannot fight anger with anger, as anger simply begets more anger. What we need is unity and understanding.
Perhaps I am naïve in calling for more understanding and love in the wake of such a hateful, bitter, and divisive election, especially from the people who have been hurt most by this decision, and perhaps hate is just such a fundamental aspect of human existence that we cannot avoid it. However, in my opinion, naivete is a better approach than caustic hate and the propagation of this problem that has still not been solved. If we continue to shift the blame from one group to another, we cannot resolve this anger that has instilled itself throughout America and the world. One of my biggest fears after the Brexit vote was the parallel with the upcoming American election – a result that no one expected, unpredicted by the polls, that was driven by voters completely frustrated with the government. That is the result we have seen tonight, almost exactly, and we can only expect the result to continue to be echoed throughout the world in similar situations. I am afraid and uncertain of the future of our country under the leadership of Trump, but in these times, I believe it is best to focus on that which unites us, not that which divides us. I am not calling for people to forgive what Trump has said or done, and I am not calling to replace Trump – as far as we know now, he was elected with a plurality in the popular vote and won the Electoral College. However, I think we would all benefit from understanding each other more, caring for each other, seeing each other as human beings, and working together to make our America into the America we want to see. All of us have to work together, using our special talents and skills, to solve these ingrained problems that face our nation and to be the change we want to see in this embittered world. Together, unified, we can make America great, for love and understanding will always trump hate and bigotry.