by Kate Sheehy
Across the country Wednesday morning people woke up to face the unexpected. It’s fair to say that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton supporters alike were dealing with shock.
It seems all along there was a “silent vote” for the former reality TV star that gave him the edge he needed to beat Clinton. Pollsters were not aware. Political pundits were not aware. The best research a campaign could buy could not identify the hidden resentment harbored by thousands who were not visible among the raucous Trump base.
So on the morning after the election as people turned on their radios and TVs and opened their newspapers, they were reminded that the United States is not the country they might have thought it was. For millions of Americans it was a terrifying wake up call.
Sara Bareilles, a pop and Broadway musical star, wrote a song that imagines what President Barack Obama wishes he could say to the American people in response to Donald Trump’s movement of hate, misogyny and ignorance.
One verse asks, “Is this the best we can be? Seriously.”
In the aftermath of the election, this question hangs heavy in the air, in desperate need of an answer.
On the Chico State campus Wednesday, faculty, staff and students gathered to discuss what a Trump presidency will mean for individuals and communities. Through tears, several students shared fears about a future now very much unknown.
Undocumented students asked, “Will they still be able to finish their degree?” Others said they didn’t know what would happen to parents, brothers and sisters who are not citizens.
In an outline of his first 100 days in office, Trump claims one of his first tasks will be to “cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama.”
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) could be one of the first of these orders to go. More than 700,000 undocumented immigrants are currently protected from deportation by this program, many of them students.
LGBTQ, Black, Asian, Latino and white – all those gathered in that room — expressed the necessity to not only support but also protect one another.
There were calls to action. Today we grieve, but tomorrow we get to work. One older man called upon young people, telling them they must lead if there is to be change.
A student brought to the U.S. from Mexico as a child told his peers he will no longer stand by and cry when he feels threatened. He said he is ready to fight for equality.
That room provided shelter for an hour. Through the door and back out into the world, nothing is certain. What is certain is so much is about to change.
David Remnick – Editor of The New Yorker – wrote that electing Donald Trump “is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism.”
In his editorial, Remnick references George Orwell’s essay, “Freedom of the Park,” which argues that whether or not laws are carried out is based on public opinion. In other words, Orwell argues that it is people’s views of one another that directly impact how communities are governed. If people want protection for immigrants and refugees, it will exist, even if the law does not permit it. If society wants women to have control over their reproductive rights, it will be so.
After slavery was abolished, the lives of Black people remained inconsequential in the South. In his TED talk, Bryan Stevenson – founder of the Equal Justice Initiative – refers to the decades of lynching and bombings after the Civil War as an era of terrorism. He argues that this hatred has not disappeared but taken on new forms. The mass incarceration of Black men, he says, is modern day lynching.
“…in the states of the Old South, we execute people — where you’re 11 times more likely to get the death penalty if the victim is white than if the victim is black, 22 times more likely to get it if the defendant is black and the victim is white — in the very states where there are buried in the ground the bodies of people who were lynched.”
Stevenson believes “our identity is at risk.” He says as a nation we are unwilling to come to terms with our history and so unable to find a way forward together.
Is this the best we can be?
The country now faces the presidency of a man who was propelled to popularity by tapping into shame and fear. It is this hate, fueled by ignorance and disenfranchisement — more than the policies Trump enacts — that will have the direst consequences.
Kate Sheehy is community outreach coordinator at ChicoSol and a communications instructor.