The following is a post written by Klaus Mayr. It is of a political nature and does not necessarily reflect the thoughts and opinions of all associated with the Campus Y/Global Gap Year Fellowship.
I love my country. It is my home, my family, my identity, my future.
The election of Donald J. Trump as president does not, and will not, change that.
But today is the first of many uniquely difficult days in our nation’s future. Not because Trump will completely turn it on its head and send it into oblivion – there are still many limits to his forthcoming power – but because we were just awoken from a falsely optimistic dream about the inevitable arrival of compassion and morality among the majority of our population.
The only remotely redeemable aspect of this election’s results is that they exposed a disconnect throughout our population, our media outlets, our policy makers — every single aspect our society. Our most trusted national pollster, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, said Trump’s chances of winning were less than half as good as Clinton’s. Now we’re stunned, and we have no science, no statistics we previously regarded as indisputable knowledge, to tell us how exactly this happened.
Both Republicans and Democrats have descended into a belief that their opinions are as good as fact. I am just as guilty of this as anyone. For the past 18 months, I’ve tuned out the propositions and beliefs of over half our voting population and regarded them as wholly irrelevant and false. When people here in South Africa warned me not to be sure that Hillary would win, because of the similarly unexpected outcomes of Brexit, I remained naïvely confident that the United States was somehow different, somehow above the ideological shift that is taking place throughout the western world.
We forgot that we are human. We forgot that no liberal or conservative, white man or black woman, gay or straight, Muslim or Christian, is an unequivocal authority on what is true or moral. In doing so, we disregarded the importance of mutual respect and humility, two things that are vital to maintain a diverse democracy such as ours. That is why the silent majority that elected Trump went almost completely unnoticed by pollsters, and why that silent majority exists in the first place. We have been ignorant and entirely dismissive of the anger and desperation turned to the violent and heinous rage that fueled Trumps campaign.
It is the reason that, in this brief moment in our nation’s history, love did not trump hate.
No matter how the election turned out, one half of the country’s ideals would be thrown to the wayside because the other half triumphed. In retrospect, it makes sense that Trump won, because he was the candidate who ran on a platform of hate and mistrust, perhaps the most unifying sentiments that have existed during this election cycle and the past decade.
Both the Nazi Party in Germany and the National Party in South Africa rose to power in ways eerily similar to the way Trump did. They called for revolutionary measures to overturn an establishment that they were unsatisfied with, and oppressed racial and ethnic populations that did not have the same capacity for violence and animosity.
Nelson Mandela and his colleagues began to radically resist the powerful force of apartheid in the 1950s. They strove to completely upend the National Party, rid South Africa of its white colonizers, and take back their country. No progress was made during that decade; in fact, the apartheid regime only became more radical and abandoned all moral constraints, resulting in Mandela’s arrest and the continuation of the regime for many years to follow.
In 1990, Mandela was released from prison after 27 years, and the ban on his affiliated party, the African National Congress, was lifted. Rather than striking back in the radical manner his vengeful younger-self likely would have, Mandela led the country of blacks, whites, coloreds, and Indians down a path of mutual respect and humility. They negotiated with the National Party to phase out of the apartheid system and into a democratic one.
Mandela was a rare leader known for his unique ability to listen to and respect every person’s opinions, even the people that put him in prison for 27 years of his life. That is a remarkable quality that is necessary to remedy the disconnection between Trump’s silent majority, those that #arewithher, media outlets, politicians, and every other category that exists in the United States.
In no world would I consider the racist, sexist, bigoted rhetoric Trump used in the 2016 Election acceptable. It plagues the minds and lives of every single demographic that exists in our country. But for those that don’t want him in office, the antidote to that plague is not to turn and condemn those who elected him either because of or regardless of that rhetoric. And for those that do want him in office, history tells you that taking this newfound power and using it to subjugate your fellow countrymen is futile, it simply will not last, and it will only promote a culture of hate and division that benefits no aspect of our society.
Regardless of where your stand on the political spectrum, I believe that Trump’s victory is a sobering catastrophe. But we are a resilient, intellectual, impassioned nation that I am still so unbelievably proud to belong to. This day is a turning point in our nation’s history, perhaps leading to our hegemonic demise, and perhaps to even greater stability than we already have.
It’s not an easy task to unify a country that spans 3,000 miles from coast to coast, has no official language, and has a Donald Trump as its President Elect. But it is important to remember that unity is not synonymous with uniformity. We can remain just as politically, socially, and racially diverse as ever, but we cannot afford to neglect and belittle the beliefs and mere existence of our fellow Americans.
Nelson Mandela’s favorite quote, Invictus, ended with the words,
It matters not how straight the gate,How charged with punishments the scroll,I am the master of my fate,I am the captain of my soul.
As daunting and grim as our future may appear for some, I know that the United States is not a nation that would let one man and his inhumane rhetoric and ideals lead us to our downfall. We belong to a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people. If we make our own decisions to reach across party lines, respect each other, and acknowledge our own shortcomings, we can determine our own political and moral standards separate from our President Elect’s. Donald Trump is not the master of our fate, nor the captain our souls.