The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Respect and Resistance

The night of Nov. 8 was a surreal experience for many Grinnellians. Gathered around campus to celebrate Clinton’s victory, a slow-moving shock seemed to take hold of the student body as states on the map were slowly shaded red. While students at other schools gathered to protest and yell their frustrations, Grinnell remained strangely silent; the quiet being broken only intermittently by shouts of “Trump! Trump!” that echoed from a few cars circling campus.

The silence wasn’t flashy, and it certainly didn’t earn us any airtime or headlines in the local news, but there’s no doubt that it was necessary. Grieving is a slow process, and as the cold reality of a Trump presidency sank in for all of us, it may have felt profane to shout over our sadness.

For the next couple of days, campus continued to be possessed by this somber tone. Proactive students and the administration organized spaces for reflection, meditation and expression, and I believe their efforts helped to further our communal dialogue in both an effective and healing way. Setting the tone like this has hopefully shaped the way all of us have engaged with each other afterwards. Although I am only going off my own anecdotal observations, I have been truly heartened by the amount of true listening and empathy that Grinnellians have extended to each other in the wake of Trump’s victory.

Moreover, this meditation, reflection, listening and honest expression that Grinnellians have been practicing isn’t just a healthy exercise, it’s the building blocks of an effective resistance. A common mistake of many protest and revolutionary movements around the world is to organize around anger. The fury, fear and disgust that people feel in response to injustice is natural, informative and even beneficial, but it can also be easily exploited. We can’t even attempt to count the number of people’s movements around the world that have righteously sprung up, only to fade into failure or face the realization that the people who rode the movement to power didn’t share the core values and principles of their followers. In light of these examples, it’s important for us to remember that anger flares up quickly, but it burns out even faster.

That’s why I think the honest reflection that Grinnellians and many progressives have been engaging in is an encouraging sign. I may be an optimist, but I believe that a movement that values the diversity, dignity and humanity of everyone will ultimately triumph over one that was hastily melded together from anger, confusion and hate. That we would construct this campaign through deep listening, respect and empathy is fitting considering that Trump’s presidency was born in the chaotic and violent atmosphere of his rallies.

But reflection must not be mistaken for inaction. Going forward we now know that progress necessitates action, and that our civic duties do not start and end in the ballot box. In the coming four years, let us all find ways in which to effectively help and affirm the dignity of everyone in this country. Whether that is protesting with the Student Action Committee, marching with fellow Grinnellians at the Million Women’s March (Jan. 21 in Washington D.C), volunteering at a Planned Parenthood or simply donating canned goods to a local food bank, we can, and must, actively work to ensure that the least possible amount of harm comes from these four years.

And yes, sometimes even anger can be useful in fueling this fight. But we need to be careful with this fire, and not let it consume our movement like it did Trump’s campaign. In this sense, the reflective moment that we all took after the election was both necessary for our sanity and hopefully an integral step in building a coalition that is more sustainable and just than anything a demagogue can put together.

-Jon Sundby ’17

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