A Great Nation...

By Jeff Hanna, PhD (Math/Science Faculty at the York School, CA)

I am a high school math and science teacher in California. This is my third year teaching high school after successfully navigating upper academia to receive multiple master’s degrees, a doctorate, and postdoctoral research experience at some of this nation’s top schools. Had I continued on that path, I certainly would not feel compelled to write this op-ed. Yet, as I stood in front of my students on the morning of Wednesday, November 9, looking into the faces of the future, I found myself searching to provide some message of hope. Not hope in the sense that I wish the country were headed in a different direction politically; that I can accept. But hope in the sense that compassion, respect, and responsibility still have weight in a nation soon to be led by a voice for hate, bigotry, and blame. In the words of CNN’s Van Jones, “You tell your kids, ‘Don’t be a bully.’ You tell your kids, ‘Don’t be a bigot.’ You tell your kids, ‘Do your homework and be prepared.’ Then you have this outcome.”

I understand those who are against the two-party establishment, as I share their frustration with the current political system. It was clear from the primaries that many Americans felt the same distrust in the establishment, but unlike the voices on the right, the DNC did nothing insofar as listening to its constituents. Instead, they monopolized the primary, pushed their preconceived agenda, and went about business as usual. We all see how that turned out. Maybe next time they’ll listen to the people.

Bernie Sanders is the first presidential candidate in my voting lifetime to connect and resonate with me. As someone who was raised in the South, it’s safe to say that the entirety of my family and many of my closest friends do not share my political beliefs. That’s okay. I am aware that just as I stand on one side, someone else is standing across from me. What I do not understand is why half of this country voted for a man who incites violence, a man who spews hate. We elected the former leader of the birther movement and the man who claims climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. This man refuses to accept reality and face the facts, whether presented in the form of a birth certificate or the consensus of scientists worldwide. “It’s clear that Donald Trump is about to be one of the most powerful people in the world, but even he does not have the power to amend and change the laws of physics, to stop the impacts of climate change,” says Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union for Concerned Scientists. “He has to acknowledge the reality of climate change, he has a responsibility as president-elect now.” President-elect Trump has threatened to appoint climate deniers to lead major government agencies and roll back the progress we have made as a nation. “Make America Great Again,” Trump pledges. A great nation has a responsibility to lead the charge in protecting the planet we share with so many others. A great nation has a responsibility to ensure basic human rights for all. A great nation is empathetic to the suffering of others. A great nation offers opportunities for success to its people as a way of ensuring the success of the nation as a whole.

Maybe I am disillusioned about my own country. I know many of us are stressed out, working too hard, or not able to find work at all. I know people are struggling, they are unhappy, they are angry. What I don’t understand is how that can manifest itself as a vote for hate. How can half the people in this country cast a vote in good conscience for someone who is everything our parents and grandparents raised us not to be? How can you put those things on the highest of pedestals and say that it’s okay? Perhaps now it rests on my capacity to forgive, to believe that my new president—our new president—has the capacity to stand up for all Americans regardless of race or religious beliefs. For those of you who share the same political ideology as our president-elect, I ask whether or not any of your hostility has diminished now that you are represented? Please, let’s talk as respectful human beings to learn to live together, to learn to support each other, and to ensure this country is greater than it ever has been.