My fellow Lawrentians. I write this to you from a place of deep sorrow and anger, the morning after an authoritarian has been given the keys to the White House and, barring some miracle of a black swan event, will occupy it until at least 2020. As much as we might hope for it, the idea of Trump exiting the White House is likely not going to happen. I did not sleep well last night, if I really slept at all, and I would be surprised if that was not the case for any of you as well. Right now, we are all likely feeling as if the end of the world is nigh, and I do not blame you for thinking this.
That being said, I want to make one appeal to all of you, an appeal I will make again and again and again until Trump is but a bad memory in our national consciousness: do not let him beat you. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote last night, so know a plurality of our voting populace stands adamantly against him. We are not alone. There is good reason to be afraid of how Trump will govern: giving him access to nuclear codes, as well as the fact that the Paris climate agreement is likely doomed, are but the most obvious at the moment, but it is not impossible to resist him. Some of this will simply come down to faith and luck, but there are a few things we can do right now that we can make a noticeable difference in.
The first should be the most obvious: defend every minority you know any way you know how. Give them your time, your energy, your voice and if they are in danger, protect them. We are all in this together from now on.
The second thing is to get involved in your local politics in a way that you never have before. Do not go to New York City or to Los Angeles after you graduate to pursue your dreams, if you’re planning that. Go to Ohio, to Georgia, to Florida, to Michigan, to Pennsylvania or even stay in Wisconsin, god knows we will need it. Go to places that are going to be gutted by Trump’s policies without even knowing it and make sure that the people you will meet and love there will survive. Vote for Democratic candidates, even on the local and municipal level.
The next thing is simple: invest in a green environment, because Trump will not. Buy solar panels. Buy windmills. Get a Tesla if you are rich enough. Do not let yourself become complicit in the warming climate. Even if he gets kicked out in four years it is going to take a lot of work to get back to the policies Obama put in place. Encourage the climate scientists who are working in green energy and carbon capture technology. We fixed the ozone layer despite eight years of Reagan. We can do this.
Perhaps the most important thing that you can do, however, is love. Do not think of things in apocalyptic terms, though you have every right to think this. Fall in love. Marry, have children, make friends, build the coalition that will stop this. We are going to have strange bedfellows in the next four years, people like Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, Glenn Beck, Rich Lowry, everyone who looked at Trump and said no. Forgive their sins. Love their laughs, their sense of humor and their righteous indignation. Love them all the way until Trump is gone.
With this love, however, is going to come with a steep thing that many people are not going to find easy: the rejection of white supremacy. I am not merely talking about shunning the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis who are going to come out in full force with a fresh sense of validation, the likes of which we have not seen since the churning 1960s. It is time for White Americans to realize how much they have in common with Black Americans and realize that race exists and the concept of race must also be eradicated. For white supremacy is built on the ideal that there is the White, and there is everything else which does not matter, which must be seen as subhuman, inferior, unworthy of care or empathy. Indeed, Whiteness must now be transformed, to redeem itself, to realize that Whiteness as it is must become an instrument of love rather than a separating wall. The age of White as default must end. Instead, it must become another facet of a truly equal and diverse society, and the only way it can do that is if the idea of that way of life is over and it is not the realization the people of color are just like us but that we are just like people of color, that we are no better and they are people we must obviously love and treat as our fellow travelers on the earth. We must love supremely rather than imagine we are different or better, no matter how hard it is at first, no matter how many mistakes you make. This is what you can do.
It is in this talking about Whiteness that I think to perhaps the greatest writer in American history, William Faulkner, who, though he was a white man from Mississippi—and had problematic views, even then—believed firmly in the rights of people of color, and towards the end of his life raged against the unjust death of Emmett Till. In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for literature, which he allegedly delivered drunk and which is perhaps the greatest speech ever written, he said: “I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.”
Not since he gave those words are we to follow them so closely. Carry the fire, my fellow Lawrentians. We are not beaten yet.