In 1908, “The Melting Pot: The Great American Dream,” written by Israel Zangwill, took the United States by storm. The play paints a picture of a utopian state; the lawns are bright suburban green, the skies are blue and everyone of different races and identities holds hands and sings kumbaya. American historian James Truslow Adams GRD’ 1900 defined the American dream as such: “Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. The enticing concept of the American dream drew massive waves of immigrants throughout the 20th century and continues through the 21st.
It was an iconic idea — a picturesque society that didn’t harbor internal division. Unfortunately for us, hate feasts on the hearts of many in this country. Donald Trump’s victory was absolutely stunning. For me, it wasn’t about the man himself. He is a caricature of a politician and a man, both preaching and practicing hypocritical policies. Trump has long been running scams against the everyday citizen, but he was still merely a singular bizarrely individual to me; the joke campaign couldn’t possibly attract enough followers to actually win.
This was not about Republicans vs. Democrats, or about clashing religious or constitutional ideologies.
Surely, the people would band together to protect the country from being economically and diplomatically dismantled by a radical and unpredictable man.
The numbers that turned out to support Trump shocked polls, media outlets, world leaders and Clinton LAW ’73 supporters everywhere. Even though many have pointed out that Trump is unlikely to follow through with his drastic promises, what’s indubitable is that 59.7 million voters were attracted to his divisive rhetoric and Make America Great Again movement. At least some of the 59.7 million voted for a movement boasting Islamophobia, for a society where black lives do not matter and Latinx lives don’t belong, for a sexual assault proponent engaging in harmless “locker room talk”. For me, it’s not about the changes that will or won’t occur directly under Trump — it’s about the people behind his movement. They are the unidentified students who left a rotten banana accompanied by obscene drawings outside the door of a black woman at American University in September. They are the legislators behind environmental racism and failing to protect black children in Flint, Michigan. They killed Alauddin Akonjee and Thara Miah, a New York imam and his assistant. They are the ones spitting slurs and deploring equality in love and life.
I do not think all Trump supporters are horrible people. However, I strongly believe that the Make America Great Again was a beast that created an environment where select people felt comfortable committing these atrocious actions. Supporters, in this scenario, became serious bystanders who were willing to overlook the explicit hate of the movement. Trump catalyzed an existing and understandable sentiment of economic desperation amongst America’s largest group of low-income, uneducated whites. The movement sourced this anger and dangerously directed it towards marginalized groups in the form of memes, racial slurs, physical attacks and “Trump that Bitch” t-shirts. It feels as though the country has regressed decades.
I’m a first-generation American; my parents are both Chinese immigrants who came to the United States. They too believed in the Great American Dream before they arrived but realized that this country was ultimately constructed on inherently unequal structural and social foundations that will only be exacerbated in the next four years. Upon hearing the results of the election, my mother texted me with a few words of wisdom. “Now we have the result. Make yourself stronger, more powerful and become more influential to others in the near future. I think that is what you Yale students can do.”
The melting pot is a failed experiment. The Great American Dream was only ever attainable for a few. At the very least, I can thank Donald Trump for decidedly showing the world that idealistic American unity is nothing but a facade. It always was; history has always glorified the victors at the expense of numerous victims. Flawless multiculturalism and interracial dynamics scarcely exist outside of fiction books or SAT math questions.