A Movement of Undying Spirit

By Vigunthaan Tharmarajah (Boston University Undergraduate)

A movement is defined by its undying spirit, not by its hurdles and setbacks. The setbacks may bring into question the way forward, but we are reminded of our initial purpose, and regroup ourselves in order to move forward and achieve what we set out to do.

Hillary Clinton, during a campaign cycle of unprecedented hatred and vitriol, opted to ground her campaign on a simple motto: Stronger Together. While short in length, it encompasses the very essence of the shared American experience: helping one another and being a better country for it. It’s an apt reminder of the nation’s humble founding, in which the Founding Father John Dickinson said, “United we stand, divided we fall.” As a nation, we’ve proven countless times that we all prosper when we stand together, whether that was during the revolution in the 16th century or in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. It’s not a very difficult concept to comprehend and rally behind either - after all, history has repeatedly shown that there is indeed strength in numbers, compassion and kindness.

Clinton’s campaign slogan was wonderfully appropriate, given tumultuous domestic and international affairs, from widely polarized partisan politics to terrorism. And indeed, millions came together. But the coalition didn’t just represent progressive policies that liberals wanted to see enacted, nor did it exclusively represent a desire for the legacy of President Obama to be carried on. On this year’s ballot wasn’t just a set of policies that one person agreed and the next disagreed with; there was the fundamental element of human decency. And that’s why this election was so unique and critical: beyond the candidates’ policies was a clear disparity between social values. One candidate was the embodiment of xenophobia while the other was the passionate, tenacious representative of an inclusive collective. Neither was without his or her own faults, but in the interest of decency, dignity and respect, the choice was crystal clear. Or so I thought. 

Nearly 48 hours removed from the stunning election night, I’ve found myself going through the stages of grief and ultimately ending up ready to move forward, with several caveats. The nature of contests hinge on the fact that you lose some and you win some. And when the former happens, you reflect, learn from the mistakes, pick yourself up and move forward. But again, this is a unique election, one in which the personalities and values - unfortunately - dominated over policies. And because xenophobia, racism, sexism, and so many more forms of hatred prevailed, it was a tough pill to swallow. So ultimately, it was, ironically, more painful that those despicable values had triumphed over the fact that the opposition party candidate had won. Which brings me to my point: this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Politics was never meant to define our very existence and self-respect.

Over the past year and a half, I’ve repeatedly tried to reach across the aisle and empathize with Trump supporters. I’ve had little to no success. As far as I can remember, I’ve never had a conversation with a Trump supporter for more than a few minutes before one of us threw our hands in the air in frustration. That is an issue and I am very much a part of it. The very fact that our politics has stooped to a low where we can no longer empathize with and comprehend each other’s viewpoints is disheartening but more so absurd. And arguably the biggest takeaway from this election has been just that: we, as Americans first and foremost, must make every effort to unite and understand one another despite disagreements. We must find common ground first, and build a conversation from there, debating the merits of policy, not degrading each another’s dignity. That said, it becomes an equally important responsibility to recognize the bounds of political discourse and condemn hateful, inhumane rhetoric. Unless we can do this, this democracy will cease to be vibrant.

The holiday season is upon us - prematurely one might say - and as we rejoice with family and friends, let us make it a priority to respect and understand one another, despite differences in ideology. Stand up for what is right and condemn the hatred that may now feel like the rightful heir to the progress we’ve made all these years. Fight for morality and be informed. Reach out to one and all and spread love, for we are indeed Stronger Together.