If my Facebook feed is anything to go by, the world is in a state of utter shock. What we witnessed last night is nothing short of astonishing and quite frankly pretty terrifying. The memes, puns and jokes about this election ceased to be funny around 3am this morning, as America did what no one really believed America would ever do in electing Donald Trump as president. While I make no claims to being any kind of expert in politics, or even having previously engaged much in politics, I am a human being living on planet Earth and therefore this decision matters to me.
Even though the idea that this man, who I’m led to believe thinks climate change is a hoax, thinks women are only useful if they are pretty and submissive, is being trialled for the rape of a 15-year old girl, and would like to eradicate all ethnic minorities, is going to lead America as of next year saddens me to my core, I am not without hope. Of course the shock and despair we are all feeling is justified, but I am yet to see anyone open up the conversation about how we can move forward with this decision. I refuse to believe that in our world one man can truly be allowed to have the influence that it seems we are currently anticipating he will have. How can one person, supported by some 50-odd million (at least in his country) out of 8.8 billion people change the whole world? The answer: only if we let him.
In the turmoil that is our world at this very moment, I think there are a few things we need to keep in mind. Firstly, this decision has been made and our first step should be one of acceptance. The people of America (at least the third who voted) have made it clear that they want change, even if it is of the disturbingly radical, regressive kind. On this note, I guide you to the serenity prayer….
The reality is there is nothing we can do (especially as foreigners) to change this decision. We must accept it. However, we can and absolutely should engage our wisdom and humanity to respond to this decision in a meaningful way.
Firstly, I truly believe the most important thing we can do is to love more. Love everyone that you meet, regardless of their sex, race, country of origin, religious views, sexual orientation, political views, career, their past, socioeconomic status, beliefs, views or opinions. At the end of the day we are all human, and creating further divisions in our global community, or positioning ourselves in radical opposition to Trump, serves no one. Unity, love and acceptance will always trump division, radicalism and bitter conflict. Every single person on this planet has the capacity to love more (Trump included), for love is infinite, abundant and wildly potent. Stand up and show that you do not accept the largely discriminatory views of this new president by embodying an attitude of acceptance and love. We cannot underestimate the powerful effects that unconditional love on an individual level can have on a global scale. So go out and love more. Give love. Be love. Accept love. Propagate love. Embody love. Live to love.
The second ‘action step’ we can take is to begin to truly live in alignment with our own beliefs and values, as a way of demonstrating and defending what matters to us. You might feel the environment is essentially doomed under Trump’s presidency, but if you care about the environment you must do everything you can to protect it. Recycle more, use less water, reuse everything that you can, demand less packaging, buy organic food, invest in renewable energy sources for your home, turn off your lights, turn down your heating, plant some trees, eat less meat, eat more local food, don’t waste food, compost, sign petitions, attend environmental protests, lectures, and gatherings.
Perhaps you are worried about attitudes towards women in the coming years? Well then you must be even more vocal about women’s issues, stand up for women’s rights even more than you have before, demand that women be considered equal to men, unite with men in changing societal attitudes and norms, educate our sons and daughters in the right way, and never, ever, ever give up on equality.
And what about those immigrants and refugees who may very well be denied entry to and asylum in America? How about we open our arms to them? Lobby your government to accept these people, find a volunteer organisation where you can directly help new immigrants in your local area. Again be vocal, let these people know that we see them, we hear them, we accept them, we will help them and that we love them. Let them know that we are not going to let them be forgotten or turned away. Where you can give as generously as you can to those who are less fortunate, whether that donation be monetary, material or the donation of your services.
Furthermore, let’s have a little bit of faith in democracy. I am a believer in the democratic system. What disturbs me in this case is that this outcome is not even representative of half, let alone the whole American population. However, I do have faith that the political institutions in America are constructed in such a way that they simply don’t, and won’t, allow one person to have all the power. I do not accept that they are weak enough to allow one person to enjoy complete power. Presidency does not equate to dictator status. Congress, the Supreme Court and the opposing party in a democratic society will serve to keep checks and balances on this new president.
Lastly, I want to make a point about knowledge, education and ignorance. In my class this morning our guest lecturer made a point about the “echo chambers” that informal education through social media creates. She made the point that in this election the echo chamber within the US media lulled us into a false sense of security and made us believe that there was no way that Trump could win. We naively allowed ourselves to remain within this echo chamber, the one full of memes mocking Trump, without investigating or acknowledging his growing fan base across America, and even the world. Perhaps had we been less ignorant, had we asked more questions and been open to the possibility of what has happened (instead of laughing it off), then there would have been a greater mobilisation of people to vote in a way that prevented this result. But we can’t look back now.
In future we need to rely less on our social media feeds as a source of education and start to really educate ourselves. Think critically about the sources you read, where they come from and how they might be biased. Do everything that you can to get out of your echo chamber in which everyone resonates your views. Talk to people who think differently to you, and learn to understand their side of the debate. Think critically and reflect upon your own views. What matters to you and why does it matter to you? Where have your beliefs come from and where will they take you if you choose to keep them? I think too often we avoid such deep reflections on our views because it is uncomfortable, unsettling and at times personally destabilising. I say embrace that discomfort, because only from grappling with your beliefs can you create a stronger, more informed and insightful point of view. Education is the way forward, but it must involve a critical and individual line of inquiry, rather than the passive mass absorption of stories and stereotypes propagated by the media.
My point is that whilst it is easy to feel hopeless, fearful and disempowered, this decision has not robbed us of our individual agency. The way you live and act has ripple effects, and the culmination of millions and billions of ripple effects can create a tsunami. A tsunami that stands for the things we care about, the things that matter to us and the issues we want to see resolved. You may be just one person, but your influence and your voice does matter. Let’s join together in a united stand of love, hope and positivity, because although this decision will have undoubtedly have ramifications world-wide, it does not mean we are doomed. How the world reacts and responds to this over the coming days, weeks, months and years will be a turning point in the history of humanity, so let’s make it a good one. Let’s ensure that we can tell our children about this time with a sense of pride in the overwhelming display of love, goodness, compassion and hope that emerged in the wake of this election. The world is not over, and maybe, just maybe, this will be the spark needed to truly ignite and mobilise the global power of humanity.
I conclude with the wise words of my friend Tyler Trevaskis, who in his Facebook post last night perfectly summarised my feelings on this issue:
“Show compassion. Have empathy. Love each other. Educate yourself. Learn as much as you can. Grow. Forgive. Because this will not only affect America, by the entire world.”