by Eleanor Harris
It is hard to put a positive spin on an inexperienced man, who is also vocally racist, sexist and homophobic becoming the next President of America. But over the past few weeks, that is the difficulty that we have been facing. Time and time again, our words have seemed to ring hollow.
The Trump presidency will clearly undermine some of the crucial progress that has been made in terms of civil rights and equalities, and will make the lives of vulnerable people even harder.
But now that the dust has settled, we need to think about how to move forward. The idea that the situation has to get worse before it gets better has been shown to be a fallacy, but we can glean one positive aspect from this. We can now see that anti-establishment feelings are so rife that millions will vote for a candidate whose policies are directly against their interests, and the opposition has been forced to understand how they need to change in future campaigns. The election has also made it clear that the campaign to hold politicians accountable and fight their policies needs to be uncompromising. There is no longer the option of being passive.
In the immediate aftermath of the election, I was struck by the number of responses to campaigns on social media where users shared photos, videos and stories to cheer people up. People shared heart-warming stories; pictures of puppies and kittens; jokes; and images of natural beauty, like a picture of yellow flowers that someone’s child had planted and grown.
Despite the results of this, we retain these things which make the world brighter, and we needn’t lose our faith in others. For every Trump voter, there are hundreds who value and support those from oppressed and neglected communities. Not everyone who voted for Trump is irredeemably racist, homophobic or sexist; many of them are poorly-educated and profoundly disaffected by Washington politics, but fundamentally kind and decent.
Since the result, the Internet has been awash with people promising to wear safety pins on their clothing, signifying a commitment to stand up for members of LGBTQ+ community, people of colour and women. The fact that people perform acts of goodwill and solidarity can provide us with the meaningful bit of encouragement that, in some ways, the frightening political situation has brought out the best in people, and reminded us of how good to each other we can be.
The struggle and fight will be longer and harder, and in consoling ourselves we mustn’t forget that the Trump Presidency will cost lives and futures. But we need to remember that this is not an end to the quest for equal rights and a compassionate world. To look on the bright side, despite what some will surely say, is not just foolishly idealistic, but is totally necessary if we are going to maintain our will and strength in trying to improve the world.
We need now to simultaneously fight against the darkness and coldness that people like Trump and Pence bring through whilst looking forward to a time when, like the green-fingered American child, our flowers will bloom freely. To quote Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner in her beautiful speech at the Oxford Union earlier this week; we must “turn mourning into movement, and sorrow into strategy”. Better times are sure to be coming, even though they feel a long way off.