What are You Going to Remember?

By Alex Cohen (Harvard College Undergraduate)

I remember my life in a series of pictures: the way my mom cried when she saw me for the first time in my graduation cap and gown, the smiles on my dad’s face when the Patriots won the Super Bowl last year, the confetti in the air and the kisses people planted on each other every New Year’s Eve. 

When I think about what happened this election day, I also remember it in pictures: the freshman dining hall full of anxious students in line for ice cream, people’s faces clenched as they shuddered to hold back tears when state after state turned deep red, people praying as Florida switched color like an ominous chameleon. 

I remember forcing myself to go to bed at 1:30 A.M. and calling my parents, hoping that somehow when I woke up, things would be different. 

I remember waking up and immediately taking out my phone, though I already knew what the news would say. 

Donald Trump won the presidency. Donald Trump’s historic victory. Perhaps most succinctly and aggravatingly expressed, President Trump.

What can you do when you wake up, and the nightmare you vaguely recall isn’t a dream? 

On Tuesday, the United States elected a hateful, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynist. Excuse me for using the same words, the same rhetoric as everyone else. Maybe using those words are trite, but they are the only words I have to express how I feel. In fact, they aren’t enough to express how I feel. 

What word is there that encapsulates a friend shuddering in your arms as she tells you about her fears for her immigrant family? Is there a word for when you pray for the lives and the safety, the freedom of all your Black, Muslim, LGBTQ+, female, and undocumented friends? Is there a word for when you fear for yourself and your family, because, as a Jew, you know all too well that it’s only a matter of time?

It’s easy to pretend that the fight for the equality of all Americans happened a long time ago; after all, aren’t all the pictures of segregated schools, dead Vietnam war protestors, in black and white? 

My father was born before Brown vs. Board of Education. My mother was born before Roe v. Wade. If you’re reading this, chances are you were, like me, born before Obergefell v. Hodges. 

The fight for the rights of all Americans is not over; it was never over; it has just begun. The message that America has sent me, my friends, and my family this past Tuesday is a cruel reminder that it is not over, that it largely does not care about us, our voices, our votes. We must never give up, continue to fight to get the respect we deserve.

I guess all I can say is this: when I remember pictures of this election and its aftermath, I will not remember slinking to the sidelines and watching the environment, education, and fundamental human rights be uprooted. I will not remember being complicit in the destruction of my own morals and beliefs. 

I will do everything I can so that nothing happens to the people I love and care about. 

What are you going to remember?