Cynical Politics Must Not Overwhelm Hope

Anjali Kolachalam, Contributing Writer

Like many of you on campus today, I am still coming to terms with what happened Tuesday. What happened being, of course, that the U.S. elected Donald Trump as our next president. Even writing out that sentence makes me sick. To cope, I rewatched several of President Barack Obama’s speeches, including the one he gave at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. That was the first time we heard him say “the audacity of hope.”

Hope certainly requires audacity, now more than ever. It will take more bravery, courage in our convictions and love in our hearts to survive and thrive under a man who does not care about us. A man who, in his first 100 days of office, threatened to cancel every executive action President Obama signed, including protections for queer and trans youth. A man who plans to cancel “sanctuary cities,” cities with protections in place for undocumented immigrants. A man who is not remotely concerned with the safety of Black and Brown bodies in America.

When I was driving to Chipotle about a week ago, a man with a Trump sign in his car tailgated me for several miles, honked at me and forced me to pull over. I didn’t have a Hillary Clinton sign on my car; I don’t have any bumper stickers. Just a Brown driver. Moments like these make me wonder if the U.S. was ever my country.

Watching Tuesday’s results filled me with a profound sense of failure on behalf of the American people. I cried and I mourned for my community. I felt hopeless. I felt so silly for believing President Obama when he said, in that same 2004 speech, that the U.S. was a place for everyone, even a “skinny kid with a funny name.” In case there are other people on this campus feeling the way I do, empty and betrayed by a country that you love, I’m here to say that now more than ever we must have the audacity to keep hoping. To keep putting our hearts, heads and hopes on the chopping block because that is the way the wheel of progress works. We can not give into a country and politics of cynicism.

There are moments when I realize that the first Black president will be succeeded by the man who started the Birther movement. The sick irony makes me want to give up. Then I remember that I have been blessed by this country in a lot of ways. I’m going to a great college surrounded by bright, curious minds who won’t take “no” for an answer. I look around this campus, which has come together these last few days to form a community of protection and love. This is not the time to discuss the ideas of hope and change and think they are ideals of a forgone era. So with all the love in my heart, all I have to say to this campus and our generation is, let’s get to work.