In 2004 I was a Freshman at Brigham Young University (BYU) at the time. As a Liberal, I was floating on the surface of a sea of Conservative ideology. Because I knew that I was the minority, I felt a deep responsibility to be able to represent myself. I studied and knew both sides of the issues inside and out and I was willing to discuss with people who thought differently from me to make sure that they had the chance to see how the other side thinks. As you can imagine, I was understandably upset the day after the election because we had just re-elected President George W. Bush and I was sure that we were going to enter into World War 3. The only way I could think to cope with this defeat was to grab my guitar and walk around BYU campus playing/singing AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” as a form of protesting the direction I was sure our country was heading. It certainly didn’t change anyone’s mind or even less changed the results of the election. But it was my right to protest, to get out there and tell the world that I expected better and that I wasn’t going to sit idly by and watch my country be dragged to hell.
I’m sad to say that in the last 12 years, I seem to have lost that vigor. It’s been replaced with “sofa chair activism,” worthless Facebook rants, and (let’s be honest) laziness. With the election of President Barack Obama (the first time, I didn’t vote for him in 2012), I grew complacent. There was hope that the problems I saw in our country in 2004 would start to be resolved in 2008 and I subconsciously thought that meant my work was done. I can be such an idiot sometimes.
If you’re follow me on social media, you know very well how I feel about this election. Unlike 12 years ago, I feel the pain even deeper. This was a very different election from 2004. However, over the last 48 hours I’ve publicly been moving through the stages of grief, from the comfort of my sofa (and yes, I recognize the irony that I’m criticizing myself for “sofa chair” activism in a blog post). And in the wake of coming out of the grief of what has happened, I’ve taken to heart President Obama’s speech on Wednesday,
“Yesterday, before votes were tallied, I shot a video that some of you may have seen in which I said to the American people, regardless of which side you were on in the election, regardless of whether your candidate won or lost, the sun would come up in the morning. And that is one bit of prognosticating that actually came true. The sun is up.”
Despite the election, the sun is up and there is still hope for a new day within a Trump America. I’m convinced that the days of apathetic activism in America must end. I’m convinced that it’s time to shake off the cobwebs and raise my voice again. And I’m convinced that the only way to be of help is to get off the sofa and find a way to love, serve, and empathize with people from every viewpoint within this country. The last 48 hours have shown that America has become a more dangerous and unwelcoming place and people need help. Not only do those that are now more vulnerable than before need help, but so do the people on the other side of this. We all need to come to understand and look out for one another and the only way to do that through love, empathy, and service. That is what is right for our country. And as Secretary Clinton said in her concession speech, “…please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”
It is now our task to proactively work together, as individuals and as a society, to “[build] an America that is hopeful, inclusive, and big-hearted.” That word, “inclusive” is key. It means that we need to make room for everyone here. It means that we all need to be more welcoming to one another, to find common ground despite differences, and to create a safe space for everyone to exercise their constitutional rights. That’s true for all races, for all genders, for all religions, and for all sexual orientations. That’s true for the white working class population who won this election because they felt marginalized within their own country. I don’t want to believe that this election is a “whitelash,”
as CNN’s Van Jones put it on election night. I want to believe that this was a cry for help from a people who believed that their country was leaving them behind in its direction and who personally did not benefit (or could not see the benefits) from the direction we’ve moved in over the last eight years.
But of course, all of this is meaningless without action. I am ready to stand up from my sofa, engage in real discourse, and serve the people in my community. If you’re tired of being complacent, living in Utah, and want to engage, here are some options:
- Write your newly elected officials congratulating them for their victory and encouraging them to be representatives for all of their constituents.
- Reach out to people who don’t share your views and are significantly different from you to understand them, show empathy, and find common ground.
- Pick three causes that you care about the most and advocate for them in real life. Volunteer, protest, attend public community events, and speak up in settings where it counts. Here are just some places and organizations (in Utah and nationwide) where your real life presence is needed:
- Council on American-Islamic Relations
- Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment
- Catholic Community Services of Utah
- International Rescue Committee
- Mormons Building Bridges
- Utah Domestic Violence Coalition
- United Way/Centro Hispano
- Any of these organizations focused on women in STEM
- Any of these organizations
- If you know of another, please share in the comments below.
- Get your information from first-hand experience and primary research, not Facebook and not the mainstream media.
The sun is now up. Let’s get to work.