Election 2016: Where Do We Go Now?

Graphic by Jacob Jardel

Jacob Jardel
Voices Editor
@JJardel_Writing

To quote a commonly used hashtag, Donald Trump is not my President.

Regardless of that sentiment, though, barring an act of Congress or an act of some deity, he will be the President. For many, it’s an unfortunate, borderline tragic, turn of events. For others, Trump’s inauguration is the dawn of a change they have been wanting.

It sounds oddly familiar, though, doesn’t it?

At the dawn of the 2008 election – and even at times during the 2012 political cycle – many individuals lamented the fact that Barack Obama had won the Presidency. His platform of change and promise of hope either struck fear or reinvigorated optimism for our country.

Eight years later, we have a similar situation with Trump taking over in the Oval Office.

We are at the tail end of President Obama’s stint in the White House. He has done some great things and some less than stellar things. But one thing everyone has done, regardless of party affiliation, is hold the President accountable through good and through bad. It’s something we need to continue as Trump moves into the White House.

During his campaign, the President-elect has painted himself into a character that has made many question his legitimacy as President, with inflammatory comments insulting a wide variety of groups. Yet he insists that he isn’t hateful and holds no malice or prejudice toward these individuals.

But we as Americans, no matter what affiliation, need to hold him to a standard we expect from the leader of our country.

Can he please everyone? Of course not – especially in an era of political divide as fractured as this one. But can everyone let him know we’re displeased? We most certainly can.

People have protested, misinterpretations from both sides notwithstanding. Many groups and individuals have voiced their concerns and fears. Everyone has tried to search for a validation so integral to how we interact as humans.

Yet many try to urge a truce despite the tempestuous seas of politicking. True unity does not happen overnight. It will only take longer to build that bridge if the storm fails to die down.

So to say we need to put aside our differences for the sake of America completely invalidates the stories on all sides of the argument.

Indeed, invalidation seems to be the root of so many fears – at least from the side opposite Trump. Many worry about losing their rights as citizens, whether from deportation or forced re-closeting. The nullification of their opinions only expounds upon that, with many individuals downplaying these concerns as whiny overreactions.

But if there’s one thing we the people need to learn, it’s that we cannot dictate how other people should feel. It’s why so many people cringe at the sound of trite messages of unity.

“We need to just come together and make the nation better.”

“Put aside your differences and talk.”

“What’s done is done. We just need to put our brains together and work through it.”

Those statements, however true they may be to some extent, miss the mark in one key aspect: They circumvent, and at times eschew, the feelings of an entire segment of the equation.

As a liberal heathen, I cannot speak for those on the political right. I’m certain there is a reason they had feared for a Hillary Clinton Presidency on top of the Obama run in the White House. If this political cycle was any indication, though, politicians heard, addressed and validated those fears.

Now it’s time to do the same for the left.

We all have concerns, worries and hopes for what could happen in the next four years – no matter how gloomy or bright. But the best thing we can do is not negate the feelings we have associated with our thought processes. It’s the closest thing to unity we can hope to get.

We may not agree with each other, but we need to defend each other’s rights to feel how we do. And that’s where the accountability comes in.

Trump said he supports and holds no ill will to certain marginalized groups. He says he wants to make America great again. He says he wants to be a President for all Americans.

Then let’s make sure he holds up to his end of the bargain. Satirist John Oliver said it best on the season finale of his show “Last Week Tonight,” addressing the urge some individuals have had to flee to another country at the result of a Trump’s electoral victory.

“We’re going to need to stay here and fight,” Oliver said, “and not just politically in four years when he’s up for reelection. But constantly monitoring legislation as it moves through Congress [and] voting when your legislators come up for reelection in two years.”

And it comes down to unity – one that requires more than just putting aside differences.

“We’re going to have to actively stand up for one another, and it can’t be just sounding off on the internet or sharing thinkpieces or videos like this one that echo around your bubble. I’m talking about actual sacrifice to support people who are now under threat.”

True unity won’t happen overnight. But the way we need to start is through validating and defending each other – in person and in politics.

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