NYU Florence is a perfect location from which to watch presidential elections. It’s quiet, almost everyone on campus agrees with one another, and Italians who were around when Berlusconi was elected are more than willing to sympathize. The one fault of NYU Florence is the Valley of Death. Walking from the entrance of campus across the valley to the academic building involves a steep incline, no matter which side you begin on.
Stumbling down the steep hill Wednesday morning, having watched the first lines of President-Elect Trump’s acceptance speech at 8:47 before heading to my 9am class, was painful. I felt as if I was falling farther and farther, realizing more and more what impact Trump as president could have for me and for the American people. My knees hurt, my heart ached, and I was exhausted from waking up throughout the night to check the results. I was astonished at the presidential way in which he spoke and the contrast to his campaign’s rhetoric and anxious about the sincerity of his remarks.
I was upset because I had not realized how much I wished for a female president. I had not realized how painful watching Senator Kaine list off Secretary Clinton’s accomplishments before she took the stage to concede would be later on that day: Yale Law grad, Attorney, New York Senator, and Secretary of State (not to mention her accomplishments as First Lady of Arkansas and of the United States). If I manage to achieve even 10% of what Clinton has done for America and the world in my lifetime, I will be immensely proud. It was heart-breaking to see a woman come so far and not to feel that perhaps the loss was partially based off of her gender.
That’s besides the point, because even more painful was to see a man like Donald Trump become the President-Elect of the United States. His faults have been covered by many and I am sure we have all seen the videos and news coverage. From a purely social standpoint, his victory was bitter for myself and many others.
As I reached the bottom of the decline on my walk to class, I caught my breath. I dried my tears and sought out news coverage for how the other side of the Atlantic were reacting. I saw photos from protests outside of Trump Tower and the shutdown of the 101 in California, burning of garbage bins and breaking of windows, signs and captions proclaiming “Not My President”. A failure to accept the peaceful transfer of power that both Clinton and Obama underlined in their speeches to the nation.
I’ll be honest, the “Not My President” led me to believe that they were moving to Canada. In fact, Americans are simply proclaiming that they will not accept President-Elect Trump, chosen by the democratic process they championed when he seemed to dismiss it earlier this fall. I call that hypocritical.
I began the long steep incline to class and thought deeply about what I stand for, what I believe in, and what I want to see change in America over the next four years. Trump actually has not become president yet. He has not begun building his wall, he has not begun deporting immigrants, he has not begun ostracizing women further, or ruining the economy. Realizing this, the “Not My President” captions morphed into a new idea. A plan to persuade the electors of the Electoral College to change their votes is forming. A movement not catering to more fear, more hate, and the firmly held moral high ground that was clenched during the election, but rather an understanding of the process. A step that, while far-fetched, may accomplish something rather than becoming a nuisance to all those who wish to have their trek home after work unmarred by protests.
As I took further steps up the hill, moving my school bag from one arm to another, and beginning to breathe heavier with the effort of climbing, I thought of the newly elected House and Senate. I remembered that as a resident of Holyoke, MA, I still have rights to a say in how my country is run by phoning or emailing State Representative Aaron Vega, Congressman Richard Neal, or Senator Elizabeth Warren. This right is extended to all Americans. If you are a woman, call them and ask them to push to eliminate the wage gap. If you are pro-choice, call your senators and ask them to not vote for a Supreme Court Justice who will vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. If you identify as LGBTQ, call them and ask them to stick up equal rights and marriage equality. If you are a minority, call them and ask them to fight for your rights.
I finally made it to class that morning and despite the clear vibe in the room that everyone was processing the election results and we had discussed the election previously, class went on as usual. All of NYU Shanghai and arguably all NYU campuses are lucky enough to go to school in a university where life will go on as normal. As hard as it is and as frustrating it is to be away from family and friends in such a divisive and unstable time, I am happy to be at NYU Florence. I am happy because of the manner in which our post-election discussion took place and a New York Times reporter, Clinton’s top strategist, Trump’s fundraiser, and political pollsters will be on campus to discuss the election results with the NYU Florence community.
Truly, I am happy. I am happy because the America that citizens have seen in reality over the past few days or in their fearful visions of the future are subject to change that we as NYU students can push for. Whether we agree on all topics, whether we are downtrodden or lifted up by this election, whether we are American or not, we are all being given tools to help fight for the world we want to live in when we are 60. I am incredibly lucky to have been born in America, to have been given the chance to attend NYU Shanghai and to have taken advantage of these opportunities. I am happy because I have faith in the people I know and love to fight for what they think is right, peacefully and joyfully and fiercely. I am happy because I trust in myself and those professors and students around me to make their voices heard beyond their Facebook posts in forums that truly matter and to fight for change productively and efficiently. I am happy to be part of this community and to live in a world where these people exist and fight, despite their fears of what may come.