When I was in college I had an extremely liberal history professor who described how every purely democratic nation that has ever existed in the world has never lasted even as long as the U.S. has, due to the economic disparity that inevitably occurs when you allow and encourage the wealthy to become more and more wealthy. That same year, I was shown a video in a sociology class about the different forms of health care that countries provide for their people. This professor went on to describe how we were the one of the very few industrialized nations in the world that did not offer health care for our own people. It showed videos of people describing their struggles of going to the doctor for different ailments, standing in lines for hours at emergency clinics after natural disasters, only to be denied care. The semester ended with a reassurance from my history professor that if our generation did not do something drastic, America’s democracy would fail, just like all of the other democratic nations before us.
I graduated college being completely put off by the government and never wanting to vote, and not really even knowing my place in our society. I was literally planning to move out of the country. It just didn’t feel right. My parents couldn’t believe that I was taking my freedom for granted and demanded that I vote in every election, local or national. They said that I would grow out of this phase of rebellion. And I did, kind of.
Fast forward three years to the start of this election. Health care reform had begun, Obama had addressed crippling student loans, all of my friends who are gay, could now get married. And then along came Bernie Sanders, who described perfectly what I had been feeling this whole time. While I always felt more aligned with the Democratic Party, I had never been able to overlook the financial corruption that exists in politics, which leads to the financial inequality in society, in which ironically, the parties are fighting to make equal. Bernie inspired me, made me become invested, and gave me hope. Millions of people understood him, and followed him. I couldn’t believe it, I never had thought that in my lifetime I would see a leader like him. And then Hilary won the primaries… and I conceded to the fact that if she became president, it would give Bernie more of a platform, and it would stop Trump. She had so much experience, and could at the very least, maintain the status quo. I became really invested, even hopeful for the first time, and then Donald Trump became my president. I felt literally sick and anxious in my chest when I realized what was happening, I was in complete disbelief.
As I took time to think about it however, I realized how ignorant I had become, as I continued to blame others for being ignorant and voting for him. How are people supposed to make smart decisions if their public school system doesn’t provide them with a good education and they do not have the means or encouragement to take those college classes that I did. Why wouldn’t those same people find hope in this man who says he’ll make America great and lower their taxes? They haven’t experienced the same open minded upbringing that I had, they haven’t been exposed to diversity, they are not aware, and they are fed up with their own beliefs being ignored. They are human just like me. They are people, with emotions and reason, and they are not blind to Trump’s antics. They revel in them. And that has to be considered. It has to be, because no change can occur if we do not empathize with these people.
It is easy to empathize and fight for people who need empathy, who we feel know are victims that need a voice, be it women, the LGBT community, ect. It is easy, because it is clear that their cause is just, and that they are entitled to every right that anyone else has. It is not easy, however, to empathize with people who you yourself, do not initially recognize as victims. But half of America has voted for this person who I believe embodies every negative aspect of American society. Clearly, this many people felt that there was a need to do this, and they are the victims in this race too, and they are also the people that I need to understand and empathize with, in order to make positive change, as hard as that is for me to comprehend.
This is not to say that I am unaware of the terrible implications and dangers of this presidency. Do I feel for everyone who will be affected in their day to day lives? Yes. But should I be utterly shocked? No. We have clearly failed our people, in several ways, on both sides, for a long time. Something of this nature was inevitable. Will it be the demise of America? Maybe, but probably not. And either way, it was a long time coming. I’m hoping it will be a huge wake up call, and that nothing too extreme will happen. I hope at the very least we will all continue to have our rights. I can’t dwell on thinking about if they might be taken, because that does no good. In these four years we have to stand up for what we believe in more than ever.
I truly believe that this is our last chance to restructure society and our way of providing for our people, to promote economic growth in the middle class and continue to push social justice issues. Can all of this be done during Trumps term? Probably not. But hopefully his inadequacies and unreliableness will shed light on the problems that affect both sides. I hope that by using empathy to create a less divided country, we can start to build again.This is rock bottom and we have the ability to rise from it. We have the ability to make change. So let’s just get this done. Step up to the plate and fight hard. We have nothing to lose at this point, and everything to fight for.