Welcome Back, America

By Briana Brady, Opinion Editor–

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo wrote “Welcome back America” on her Twitter page following the announcement that Joe Biden would be the next U.S. President, and I’d say it pretty much summed up the sentiment.

I can’t describe how relieved I felt, how joyous I felt, how hopeful I felt, and truthfully, how excited I felt when the major news networks announced Saturday afternoon that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would be the next President and Vice President of the United States. I sang and swayed along from my desk chair to the sounds of elation seeping through my computer speakers from streets all over the country filled with Americans dancing in celebration.

Over the course of Election Week, which frankly felt like Election Year, I kept trying to stray from getting too hopeful about the possibility of defeating Donald Trump and installing in the White House two extremely competent, caring, and qualified people to course-correct the United States and steer our country back in a more humane and progressive direction. I didn’t want to be let down again, but I also could see that things were looking up for the Biden/Harris team. I donned my blue and tried to focus on my schoolwork, alternating between news networks in the background. Finally, the decisive news came, and I felt as though our country took a collective exhale in that moment.

In thinking of the incoming Administration, I am probably most thrilled about Kamala Harris being our newest VP. Our first woman VP. Our first woman of color VP. She offers a living reminder that women, especially POC women, are equally as capable and deserve an equal shot. United, we will keep marching on and doing the work, building upon the stepping stones offered to us by the women who came before, and assuredly, soon—although not soon enough—we will see the day when this country trusts a woman to fully lead our nation. In the meantime, though, I am grateful that this Administration offers a stark rebuke of the racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, ableism, xenophobia, and other hate-filled attitudes promoted by President Trump. Indeed, they have no place here.

…Which leads me to my next point. Although the app “Parler” had been making a right-wing rise over the past six to eight months, following Biden’s election, the app’s downloads skyrocketed to the point that the platform simply could not handle the usage. Promoting itself as an uncensored free speech environment, Parler is something of an echo chamber for right-wing conspiracy theory circulation and political dialogue; it offers a terrifyingly-niche environment for those who have been repudiated on standard social media sites because of their promotion of falsehoods and generally repulsive commentary. I fear that violence will emerge as a result of the right-wing transition to this relatively unmonitored app environment, and the fact that conservatives feel that mainstream social media platforms’ (such as Facebook and Twitter) censoring of wholly untrue and dangerous conspiracy theories equates to an infringement upon one’s right to free speech is totally bewildering to me.

I am worried by the division of the country, and I am still reckoning with the fact that over 70 million people cast their ballot for Donald Trump. 70 million Americans. That staggering number caused me to realize that as much as I want to deny it, our country is filled with people who either support Trump and all that goes with him, or voted for him for a party issue or policy platform that they liked.

I wonder how many of those people voted for Trump over Biden based solely on the issue of a woman’s right to choose. As I was driving through town and listening to a post-election podcast this weekend, I really began to think about how I could and would try to explain my stance to a single-issue voter on the issue of abortion. I’m almost sure I won’t change any minds with this, but here’s what I came to: I am pro-choice because I do not feel it is my place to or any one else’s to interfere with someone else’s personal choices that do not affect anyone other than themselves. Let me draw a contrast. Some might ask why, with that logic, I support gun restrictions; here’s the difference: owning a gun does have the potential to affect someone else other than oneself. If the gun is used in any way, it has the potential to drastically impact someone else’s life, including those of animals. However, with the issue of abortion, one individual’s decision does not affect anyone else outside of herself (or her family). It does not affect her neighbor, nor does it have the potential to affect someone she encounters at Walmart. Her ability to choose also ensures your ability to choose; she may choose one route and you may choose another, and you may have completely different circumstances leading you both to two very different decisions. If she is religious, her choice is and should remain a decision between her and God… not you, her, and God. In the Christian faith, God asks us not to judge one another, for He will cast His final judgement upon us. So who are we to impose ourselves upon the personal decisions of one another, especially not knowing the circumstances we each face?

I cannot help but wonder how many of the 70 million people voted for Trump in the name of religion but decided to overlook his treatment of refugees. I wonder how many of the 70 million people voted for Trump and truly, deeply believe without ANY evidence whatsoever that the election results are not accurate. From a political science perspective, I wonder what issues Biden could have better touched on to bring in voters simply voting for Trump for economic reasons; how does the Democratic party reach those individuals, and what compromises could be made to bring those on-the-fence voters from the right to the left side of the aisle? I wonder what kind of mayhem will ensue in Trump’s final few weeks in Office, since he now has no real accountability or remaining incentive to do anything to draw in votes or Congressional support.

As much as I will ruminate on the deeply disturbing fact that this was not a decisive victory for Biden (but a legitimate one–suggesting otherwise directly undermines our democracy), Biden emerged from the race victorious. Enough of us did choose love over hate. Enough of us turned out to vote. Our future looks to be one that does not tolerate the outright hate and disregard for our fellow human beings modeled by the Administration of the last four years, but instead is shaping up to be one in which we revive our democratic ideals, embrace the science necessary to get us out of this pandemic and work towards saving our world from a the climate crisis, and start thinking about one another again rather than reverting to our selfish ways.

Indeed, welcome back, America. We still have a long way to go, no doubt, but I am hopeful about the future of this country again. And that in itself is a breath of fresh air.

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