Abraham Lincoln once claimed that “we can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” More relevant today than ever before, Lincoln’s words pose a challenge to America. Despite the election’s outcome, I propose that we similarly choose to focus on the roses, the positive aspects of our society, the very facets that define our country, and the prospect of holding up a united front to the rest of the world.
Regardless of your views on President-elect Donald Trump and his campaign promises, certain constants in our nation remain irrevocable and unalterable. Particularly poignant in a post-election atmosphere, principles such as free speech remain essential aspects of American society and should never be taken for granted. Though the election’s outcome has left many dissatisfied, we must take a moment to recognize how privileged we are to even voice political opinions at all. In countries like North Korea and Cuba, censorship controls conversation, stifling opinions and imprisoning individuality. Here, if you are unhappy with the election you can freely protest, post on social media, and commiserate with others. You can openly disagree with our government without fear of persecution. You have an individual voice, and are unequivocally encouraged to use it. Our society even uniquely uses its freedom of expression to satirize and parody current events. This ability to find humor in any situation manifests itself on such platforms as Saturday Night Live, which famously exploits the quirks and flaws of political candidates (Tina Fey as Sarah Palin, Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton, Larry David as Bernie Sanders) for our own entertainment. If nothing else, Americans can look forward to some laugh-out-loud performances by Alec Baldwin to ease any residual election tension.
Upon walking to class this morning, blatant profanities and mumbled objections of the election repeatedly crossed my path. Although I found nationwide protests and demonstrations predictable, the harsh words of my classmates struck me profoundly. On one hand, I understand that the liberal atmosphere on campus does not align with the current status of our country. Contrastingly however, I do not think that an overcurrent of anger will solve anything. Burning flags in the quad and turning not only on one another but also on America only serves to increase divisiveness. I see these acts, the curses of our government and demonstrative escapades, as utterly disrespectful towards our First Amendment protection and of our country in general. If you find fault in our government, make use of your freedom in a productive manner. Call Congress, peacefully assemble, and do what you can to ensure better choices come next election. Even President Obama, in his post-election speech, warned first-time voters, cautioning that they “don’t get cynical” and “don’t ever think [they] can’t make a difference.” Obama’s words on cynicism remind young people such as myself to maintain trust in our political system and to act upon hope for a productive future.
If equating Trump’s victory to a thornbush, perhaps our rose stems quite naturally from Obama’s advice. Now, frustrated Americans have the opportunity to utilize such liberties as freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the press to fight for their beliefs and make their voices heard. The original intentions of these unalienable rights, to protect the citizens from their government, should resonate with those who fear the ramifications of the next four years. Today, as I find myself surrounded by moping college students and distraught professors, I cannot help but wonder what this presidential term will bring. I wonder this not from the perspective of what Trump will do, but more specifically, what we will do in response.
Jordan Karpin is a first-year in the College