Solidarity or Unrest? The Path of America Post-Election

Alicia Sapirman, Contributing Writer

This opinion article was originally written in November.

Understanding. That is what I, and many of us, wanted post-election. This summer, as the election came nearer, people threw out quips left and right about Trump running for President. This joke translated into reality. Three weeks—at time of writing, three weeks have passed since the Presidential election and I am still at a loss for words. Do I join the movement #notmypresident, or do I submissively put aside my beliefs, and simply trust in the democratic process and our system of checks and balances?

In an attempt to overcome my state of shock with the election results, I consulted political science professor Dr. William Nylen. I wanted to understand if this election represented a vast separation from its predecessors. Dr. Nylen explained that “we have never had a candidate that was so openly contemptuous of the political process itself.” Donald Trump certainly appealed to the Americans that felt that their voice was no longer being heard — that their voice did not matter.

But as we know, to rebel against a system that appears not to favor a large amount of the people it should represent comes with immense ramifications. So a vote for Trump does not automatically define the individual as a racist, sexist, xenophobic and homophobic bigot; many Americans prioritized the hope of being heard in Washington over discrimination against minority groups. Unfortunately, Trump voters then contributed to the normalization of discrimination against minorities. In the week following the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center recorded a wave of hate crimes unseen in the US since 9/11.

What we must not do now is attempt to move forward while forgetting those who did not support Trump, especially since many voters did choose Hillary Clinton. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” It is important that we do not step aside and do nothing when discrimination is occurring. The question becomes, what is the best method to prevent this behavior from being further entrenched in our society?

This is where our civic duty comes into play. When we view systematic errors in the way our country is being run, we are morally obligated to take action. Dr. Nylen explained the benefits of peaceful protests. He also warned that demonstrations work “if, and only if, the conduction of the protest does not compromise the intent of the protest.” Protests must not become dangerous to the general public in order to remain a positive action against the systematic errors. Otherwise the protest becomes unproductive and further polarizes those who would be our allies. Disruptive protest makes this an issue of enemies rather than one of a nation trying to energize a solution to a problem.

It is simply not enough to have a protest. I possessed the misconception that “standing united against hate” would raise awareness and spark change, or, at the least, send the message that discrimination would not be tolerated. I have found that protests must have clear intent such as arguing for a specific policy to be put into place or repealed.

Trump’s election has led us into a great unknown; his unclear policy positions have left our nation questioning our direction. This unknown reinforces fears in minorities and their allies. It is unfortunate that we now have a resident that many fear is too irresponsible or malicious to protect our society’s most vulnerable members.

The unknown is where we are. From here, we must all recognize that difference of opinion is an important tenant in the foundation of our country. Having open forums is essential to move forward in our new reality. We must respect alternate opinions while not compromising our individual core values. Whether or not you think we are destroying America or making it great again—we must find some source of solidarity.

Alicia is a first year student majoring in philosophy with minors in gender studies and the certificate for community engagement. She is a member of the Stetson Bonner Program.