Having grown up in the suburbs of New York, my worldview was largely a liberal bubble of social progressivism, where most right-wing people were conservative for fiscal reasons rather than social ones. Needless to say, my bubble burst on Nov. 8. After looking at the results from that day, I finally realized that half of those who voted in our country truly wanted Donald Trump for president, a man whose virulent rhetoric and ideology were powerful enough to get him into our highest elected office. I felt completely blindsided by this reality, and it made me reflect on how the media and privilege foster disillusionment.
We rely on news outlets to tell us the news, but as Salena Zito so eloquently explained in The Atlantic: “The press [took Trump] literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.” Perhaps it was my own inability to see past what the news was feeding me, but it seems the closeness of the race was downplayed across media sources, with most camps of supporters believing the partial truths that were being filtered through their self-selecting worldviews.
We must bear in mind that media propagates ideas that reflect popular opinions. We are fed the news we want to hear, which often represents a limited perspective. This rattled me most, for there were more closeted Trump supporters who revealed themselves on election night than there are bad hombres on any given day within our borders. They both deserve a voice, and we all must get better at listening.
If I temporarily look past the racism, misogyny and xenophobia that occupied a huge amount of Trump’s platform, I can see how a group of people whose own struggles have been sidelined felt as though Trump addressed their needs. There is a key separation between the people who voted for Trump because they felt he was addressing their needs and those who support him because he legitimizes their hate. Even so, I personally find difficulty in understanding how a person can be so focused on his or her own tribulations to dismiss notions openly threatening the livelihoods of other human beings, from immigrants and Muslims to women and political opponents.
Privilege, in all forms, has had a grave impact on this election and will continue to be influential in the way people act in the coming years if we are not careful. I am privileged, even as a non-white woman in Trump’s America, to come from an upper-middle class family, attend a prestigious university and to face less discrimination because most people find my race ambiguous.
But privilege is a dangerous thing, for it provides an illegitimate and exclusionary form of safety. It enables people to act in their own interest even if these same actions are in the disinterest of others, and it tolerates neutrality when other’s rights are infringed upon. Just as not everyone had the privilege to be able to vote for Trump, or whichever candidate they preferred, few have the privilege of being able to wait out Trump’s presidency, which for the next four years has the potential to painfully change lives.
We cannot allow the playing field to be separated into “them” and “us.” This division is even more dangerous than privilege for it puts all of us at risk. We, whoever your “we” is, cannot perpetuate a blame game that has been so prevalent throughout this election cycle. We have to understand the impacts of our actions as well as how individual choices have greater fallout than individual repercussions.
It is humbling to realize that no matter who you are, your worldview is limited. Such an eye-opener has motivated me to see the destruction of my liberal bubble as an opportunity to learn more about the wide spectrum of diverse beliefs that make up our country. Social rights that have been vigorously fought for in the past few decades are coming under fire, and in a time where conflicting ideologies have torn apart a nation, we must not disengage. We all have an obligation to defend each other.
Gabriella Wan is a sophomore in the School of Nursing and Health Studies.
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