Grace Manning ’21
With the results of the election finally established, there is a palpable sense of relief among my friends and family members. Many of us, young people in particular, have regained a sense of pride and hope that we had lost over the past four years and we feel closer to each other and to our country than we have in a long time. However, this election was not only being anxiously watched and results not only eagerly awaited by Americans. The rest of the world was tuned in too. I have come to understand how important these results were for international relations and for the rapports we have between the United States and other countries. The past four years have encouraged a strong sense of nationalism, of “us against the world” and of closing ourselves off as a single country unit. I believe that these ideas do not set us up to be citizens of the world, nor do they follow the set of American ideals that are taught to us from a young age. We cannot section ourselves off from the rest of the world, nor should we want to.
While not all Americans follow the elections of other countries around the world, many of my friends abroad in countries such as Ireland, the UK and France, were watching our elections with the same anxious enthusiasm as I was. This election meant something to them as well. They are students who dream of coming to the United States for the summer on J1 visas to work and experience American life, and they believe that if the election had gone differently, they may never have had the chance to do so. They are young people who have family members who immigrated to the U.S. and who are worried it might be difficult to see them. To them, just like to us, this election was monumentally important in determining how the next four years of our lives are going to go.
During a celebratory parade last Saturday, one of my friends was yelled at by a man who accused her of not even knowing what or who she voted for. I don’t believe that for this election, one has to be a political science major, a news junkie or even a governmental or political savant. Many young people knew who they wanted to vote for because they knew what they wanted for this country, for themselves as Americans and for international relations. They wanted equality and equity, mutual respect, a sense of unity, to fight against discrimination, racism and xenophobia and to be inspired by the people in the white house, among other reasons. It was incredibly disheartening for me, whose family lives abroad, to watch as America changed from the place everyone wanted to visit, and the country many aspired to live and work in, to the exact opposite. My parents often said, in the weeks and months leading up to the election, that if it went a certain way, they would continue living as expats abroad. They had no desire to return to a country that was unrecognizable as the place where they were from.
All this is to say that we have been provided with a huge learning opportunity that we shouldn’t waste. We have experienced what it is like for much of the world to move away from us and for its gaze on us to change dramatically. It is up to us to make sure this doesn’t happen again.