BY ISSY SCHMIDT
Everyone deserves time to mourn — to complain and cry and say that they never saw it coming. It’s human nature to wallow, and wallowing is okay. This week’s election result was a slap in the face, an upset none of my friends saw coming, and one I only obliquely suggested as a way to make sure people voted. I was up till 7 a.m. watching the numbers, nail biting, and comforting crying or angry friends. I went to sleep before definite results were announced, but knowing that Donald Trump would almost certainly win. I slept very badly because of it. We all have a right to be miserable today.
But the work we’re doing can’t just stop because it got harder overnight.
This result is just the latest in a long line of wake-up calls for the Left. It’s yet another cry for help from a portion of the population who feel marginalized and left behind by a (relatively) sudden leap into a future of automation, free trade and free movement. It’s also undeniably a victory for racists and misogynists. But for every white supremacist feeling self-congratulatory this morning, for every person who perpetrated a hate crime in the days following Brexit, there are 20 people who need protection of their rights, empowerment and a path to a safer and more secure future.
For the last eighteen months I have felt supremely lucky to be surrounded by my generation’s change-makers. In my graduate scheme in the United Kingdom, my friends were passionate advocates for minority rights, LGBTQ equality and economic equality. They were well-informed, articulate and completely tireless in their optimism and action. I’m completely sure that cohort is going to be responsible for galvanizing civil society, organizing protests and giving support for those who need it. They are the next generation of social enterprise CEOs, legal advocates and civil disobedients. They are also the people who I’ve seen demonstrate the greatest capacity for optimism in the wake of Brexit and in the wake of this election result.
At SAIS, every person I meet is a political nerd — and I mean that in the best possible way. History has shown that these graduate students at SAIS are the future of policymaking, in America and elsewhere. SAIS graduates proliferate the echelons of political power across the world, and I have no doubt that my classmates will be no different. These are the people who will be creating laws, lobbying governments and entering politics as candidates. Every day I sit in class in awe as I listen to them.
The SAIS Bologna class of 2017 are passionate debaters and questioners. They conduct thoughtful discussions with people who don’t share their views, and above all they are interested in understanding the lived experiences of others. They are empathetic and emotionally intelligent, and I know that they’ll take these qualities into their future lives as political influencers.
The main thought giving me hope right now, after months of relentless bad news, is that I know the people who are going to mend the damage that results like this week’s will wreak. I know the people who will move forward and take action, and I know the people who will be influencing and making decisions in a generation’s time.
But we can’t wait until we’re in positions of power, or wait until we’re older, until we’re sure our voices will be heard. The work starts now. It starts with donating to charities doing great work, organizing with like-minded people and identifying the problems we need to tackle in order to move forward. It starts with solidarity. The time for slacktivism and tweetstorms is over — now is the time to be outspoken, to defend those speaking truths about injustice and to actually take action by volunteering with local charities, by marching and by protesting.
In my home country of the U.K., I believe we should be lobbying for a greater intake of Syrian refugees, for a more straightforward asylum process and for policies that aim to close the rising educational inequality gap. We should be volunteering at food banks and women’s refuges. We should be closely interrogating our society’s attitude toward immigrants, ethnic minorities and women.
In terms of the United States, there’s certainly a lot of productive ways to channel rage into action. Take your pick from Trump’s track record of misogyny, racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and more, and then find a charity or a movement working to combat those attitudes and mitigate the impact of negative legislation.
So let’s mourn, let’s cry, let’s drink a hell of a lot this weekend. But then on Monday, let’s start making plans.
Issy is an MA student concentrating in General IR at SAIS Bologna. You can find her on Twitter at @issymayaschmidt.