On January 20th, 2017, Donald Trump will become our 45th president. I know you’re upset. I am too. It’s a hard truth to swallow, but the continuation of our political institutions and country ultimately depends on accepting this frightening reality. It’s the only way we can move forward.
In four years, Trump could very well turn back decades of progress. Although he is truly dangerous, now is not the time for us to worry about those fights. I know Trump’s legacies. I’ve seen him slight my own people. I’ve even seen him mock the disabled, villainize the entire Muslim community and brag about sexually assaulting women. But ultimately, these next few weeks should be about investing our energy on supporting one another. For now, forget him and what he stands for. To survive the next four years, we have to stick together.
I know how hard moving forward might seem right now. As a gay Latino, I am afraid and worried. Whether you offer a hug or a soundboard, in this time of intense emotions, we need to be there for our friends. “Friends,” as I’ve come to learn, isn’t restricted to those who voted against Donald Trump. It includes everyone, including his most outspoken and ardent supporters.
You might be thinking, “I can’t support someone who voted for this man.” And I’m not asking you to support them as supporters of Trump. I’m asking you to support them as fellow Americans because it’s the right thing to do. Half of our neighbors, friends and loved ones voted for him. We cannot invalidate their beliefs simply because they are different from our own. Our country is built on the sense that everybody — no matter how racist, xenophobic or misogynistic they may be — has a right to vote. The freedom to cast a ballot and decide who represents your beliefs is the truest thing America has to offer — it’s the cornerstone of our democracy. And yes, I acknowledge this even as Republicans attempt to make it even harder for us people of color to express our beliefs at the polls.
This is why I’m saddened when I see friends asking Trump supporters to unfriend them on social media. What good does burning your bridges do? It doesn’t solve the problems we’re going to face. In fact, when the time comes, we’re going to need all the hands we can get. So, if you’re purging your unsavory friends from a superficial database because you think it’ll make you feel better, don’t. It won’t. Alienating those who voted for Trump only further divides us. We end up doing exactly what we campaigned and fought so hard to prevent — building walls between our communities.
We cannot allow the alt-right minority to overwhelm our opinions of the majority. Not everyone who supported Trump was a white supremacist, and not everyone who supported Clinton truly fought for social justice. In tarring his supporters as morally corrupt “deplorables,” we end up stereotyping in the very same way we condemned Trump for doing so on the campaign trail.
Come January, Donald Trump will become the leader of the free world. But before that day comes, listen to each other, at the very least. Listen to try to understand where others are coming from, rather than listening just to refute their points. Hear before you listen, maybe. And listen fully before you respond. Everyone’s frustrations, including those of his supporters, are valid, no matter how archaic we may deem them to be. We just have to remember to be civil with one another no matter how strong our convictions may be.
So, for the weeks to come, don’t give our president-elect any more attention. When the battles come — as we know they will — we’ll be ready for them. But for the time being, the two years of coverage he’s already received, plus the four more he’s going to get, certainly suffice. Let’s take a break from the toxicity of this election’s past two years. Instead of building walls, let’s strengthen our community bonds. We’ll need them by our side in the many fights that lie ahead.
Leobardo Espinoza Jr. is a senior in Saybrook College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .