Donald Trump

President-elect Donald Trump speaks to supporters at the Election Night Party at the Hilton Midtown Hotel in New York City on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. (J. Conrad Williams Jr./Newsday/TNS)

Seventeen months ago, Donald Trump announced his bid for presidency. Today, he has won it. It is with incredible apprehension and distress that we as a staff hope to bring voice to the concerns of our community. The feeling on campus Wednesday morning was one of anxiety and disbelief, as this is a result that will profoundly shape our community and our nation in the following months.

Montgomery County has frequently voted Democrat in general elections including choosing Obama in 2008, Gov. McAullife in 2013 and Sen. Mark Warner in the 2014 midterms. This general election was no different. Montgomery County was an island of blue in a sea of red. And in this election overall, millennials overwhelmingly threw their support to Hillary Clinton, not only here in Virginia, but across the nation.

Understanding the gravity of Tuesday’s results, several department advisors and professors throughout the university have reached out to students offering support and resources as we struggle to come together, to understand one another and to feel that we are valued.

Donald Trump is nothing if not unpredictable. It is perhaps this quality that is most troubling. He has ignited a following that gave voice to the frustration of middle-class Americans, but has conversely engulfed many Americans in fear. That fear stems from uncertainty about a man who has repeatedly shown a misunderstanding and dismissal of minorities, who has suggested that the court overrule the same-sex marriage precedent, that "Black Lives Matter" is a hate group and who attempted to normalize comments about sexual assault.

When Americans cast their ballots Tuesday, voting for Donald Trump came with a certain amount of risk. Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump failed to stand up for marginalized groups, and a vote for him would jeopardize their perception of acceptance and security.

In the past months, we have had a choice. We could either fight tooth and nail every day for decency, mindfulness and understanding on both sides, or we could be dismissive, mocking or unengaged. Too many of us chose the latter, but so many of us did not. As we move forward in the following months, we have to take a closer look at the way that we speak to and about others, the way we think about them and the way we generalize them.

We are not in this situation because all 47 percent of Americans who voted for Trump are racist, sexist or anti-LGBT, but rather because some of these people felt unrepresented or misunderstood, and Donald Trump was the only one who seemed to listen. For some, it was either out of anger, fear or desperation that these Americans took the risk for a man with such clear bias, a decision that has already caused so much fear and confusion, and further deepened the political schism between us.

We may not be able to control his movement for the next four years, but we can control our own. We can be champions of kindness. We can volunteer for causes, not just candidates, that enthuse us. We can stand up for what’s right and what’s fair every single day, and we must, if we are going to keep the ideals of this country alive.

This nation was founded on unalienable rights. In 1776, it was not understood that those rights applied to all people, regardless of gender, race, religion or political ideology. Today we do, but we aren't all showing it. Our right to speak out and be heard does not depend on another person’s valuation of our beliefs. Disagreeing with Donald Trump’s supporters should be a calling to reach out to them, to understand them. Instead, many have chosen to belittle them. Additionally, Trump supporters failed to give weight to Donald Trump’s comments on race, women or Muslims, despite the tangible fear and unease that those comments have caused among those groups. This lack of understanding from both sides is pulling us away from uniting as a people under our government.

This entire election season has been filled with the public entertaining a false dichotomy on nearly every single issue. We were either Black Lives Matter or "Blue Lives Matter." We were either for guns or mocking those who were. We either endorsed the Affordable Care Act or attacked it. 

From immigration to the economy, the public picked a side and believed that once the lines were laid out, whoever laid on the other side wasn’t worth a damn. If we are to move together, forward, as a country, then we must break this ideology. We must see both sides of each issue and come to the center. We can’t just expect to be given everything we want; we have to bargain and be willing to concede. Going forward, we must ask ourselves, do we care more about defending our own beliefs or seeing the world we live in with a relentless pursuit of clarity and fairness?

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