What I Have Learned Since the Election

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Editor’s Note: This is the third in the pursuit of social justice by our 2017 Mike Honda Writing Fellow, Amanda Ong. Read her first piece on identity, second piece on Tam v. USPTO, and bio intro.

It has been months since the night Donald Trump was made our country’s President Elect. I’ve listened to many people voice their fears and concerns since then – people expressing anger, sorrow, hope—it often has felt as if there are no words left for me to say. Still, I find myself here and Trump’s inauguration pressing forward with not much more than my words to give. So let me give.

The morning after the election, I cried for hours. I grieved. I raged. I felt afraid and hopeless, and in that moment no reasoning could have helped me. I had almost never felt so much like I didn’t have a voice before.

I was angry. I was angry that so many people in our country were willing not only to dismiss racism, sexism, homophobia, and violence, but also to uphold those discriminatory values institutionally. I was angry about the future of the world this set forth for me and other young people: a world where women do not have rights to their own bodies, people of color are systematically excluded and disparaged, and members of the LGBTQ community are told they are wrong for being who they are; a world where violence is condoned above justice and peace. I was angry that any man, no matter how unqualified the man, was valued above any woman in this country, no matter how qualified the woman. I was angry with the people who supported him, and then I was angry with myself for feeling such hatred.

But in this was the first thing the election made me realize: we are entitled to our feelings whether they be grief, anger, or even hate. It’s important that in trying times we allow ourselves to just take a moment and feel. We must do what we can to heal, and a large part of that involves letting ourselves feel. I could not be angry with myself for feeling the hate I felt, I just had to rise above it.

Thus lends the second thing I learned. While we have to let ourselves feel anger and hatred, we can’t let them consume us and we can’t act on those feelings. In the words of my professor the week following the election, it is very, very easy to mobilize around anger and hatred. It is much harder to mobilize around hope, and around love, but it is what we must do.
Even when we may feel hopeless, cynical, and full of the world’s hurt, I believe we still must make the choice to focus on love, hope, and compassion . I know it is hard and I am privileged to be able to make that choice. But if it is a choice we have, it is the choice we should make. This is a part of healing. Sometimes healing means taking time off, consolidating your thoughts, and relaxing, because these are things we need to do in order to move on. Sometimes healing means knowing when it’s time to move forward, or knowing when to take the high road even though it’s hard to. I don’t want to simply be angry with Trump supporters because they didn’t understand my values, or because their actions hurt people I care about. I need more than anger. I need them to understand my values so I must also understand them. Even, no, especially when we are polarized, communication and compassion are crucial. We must live day-to-day doing our best to communicate our values of equity and justice to others, and doing our best to have compassion. We must live every moment knowing that the hatred and marginalization that exists and has always existed in our country should not be normal, can not be normal. Instead we must normalize compassion. We most normalize love. We must not become the enemy.

Finally, this election reaffirmed to me that it is not enough to just post, talk, or believe in the tenets of equity and justice. We must engage in concrete political action. If we only believe and do not firmly act, we just take up space in the activist community. Inaction and silence threaten the very cause one theoretically supports. Whenever we can, we must give whatever we can to the causes we believe in. Regardless of whether our actions manifest as organizing Big Protests or dinner table revolutions or giving money or keeping one’s representative accountable, we must find ways to act.

This is what I have learned from the election. Despite the disempowerment I have felt, I must choose to learn, empathize, and act. There is still hope. There is always still opportunity for us to coalesce and fight for our rights, for what is right. I intend on being a part of that of that fight—and I hope you do too .

Note: The AAA-Fund welcomes a diversity of views and voices. In that spirit, the views expressed in this article are the author's own. Unless an article states that it was written by the AAA-Fund or its Board of Directors, it does not necessarily reflect the views of the AAA-Fund.

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