Well. These last 24 hours have been a real shitshow, huh?
I’ve had a lot of discussions today and inevitably I end up making the same confession: I am the liberal elite. I’m exactly what Trump has railed against. I’m the person who disgusts the Republican party (well… I’m one of the many people who disgust them, let’s be real here).
My undergraduate degree is from one of the most liberal colleges in America. At one point while I was a student, Fox News went through a period of referring to us as “The University of Havana North.” (Sidebar: Oh my god, YouTube, I’m so glad you exist and that you’ve retained this clip for a decade. Thank you, interwebs. My grandmother called me after this aired, shrieking “Do you know what Bill says is happening at your school?!” Sure do, Gram. We’re loving it. We had t-shirts made and everything.) In my initial draft of this post, I claimed that we were the MOST liberal, but according to this Washington Post piece, we’re merely in the top ten, with 30 registered Democrat professors to every 1 Republican; Brown is kicking our ass at 60:1. Slipped a bit in the ten years since I graduated, I guess.
In 2004, when George W. Bush was reelected, I was safely on campus. I was surrounded by peers, by like-minded individuals who were all equally distressed over the results of the election. For context, Columbia has always scheduled fall break to coincide with election weekend, and many people used that break to travel by bus to New Hampshire or Pennsylvania to campaign in swing states. It was in the early days of social media – we still called it “The Facebook” and the newsfeed was over a year away from its first primitive rollout – so we relied on cable news and T9 texting as we huddled around TVs in dorm lounges. I remember that I had a show opening the following week and valiantly tried to motivate my cast to rehearse through the early poll closures, but that quickly got abandoned. I have crystal clear memories of sitting with my cast that night in John Jay lounge. People cried. Some got angry. We all tried to process it however we could, but we did so from the safe cocoon of our campus in Morningside Heights, where everyone was feeling the same disappointment and frustration. We were just a bunch of sad lions in a sea of blue.
For the past 24 hours, I have found myself liking, commenting, and reacting to posts from college peers, many of whom I have not seen or spoken to in years. I feel a kinship with them because of our common history. In many ways, my Facebook newsfeed has felt like a return to that safe space on 116th Street. I have heard others talking about the hatred and vitriol they’re seeing, but here in my universe, I’m seeing intelligent, thoughtful, insightful reflections on what we’re all going through. People are scared, yes. They’re angry. They’re hurt. People have been expressing their feelings so eloquently, but I’m not seeing hatred. I’m not seeing ignorance. I’m not seeing retribution. Here in our virtual bubble, we are trying to shine a light on what’s happening in America today, and we’re trying to make sense of it and figure out how we proceed from here.
People want to pick up and move forward, but not in a spirit of resignation. They’re embracing the belief that every single one of us can make a stand in any number of ways. We have to live with the results of the election, but we don’t have to go quietly. These friends know that money speaks, so they’re sharing well-vetted organizations who would benefit from donations and who will carry forward our ideals in the face of a conservative onslaught. HRC the candidate may have lost, but HRC the organization – the Human Rights Coalition – could use your support. Women may not have control of the White House, but for now we still have control of our bodies and our wallets, so let’s support Planned Parenthood while it’s still available to us. My fellow members of the Liberal Elite have suggested ways to volunteer and get involved, to donate our time and to make an impact. They’re looking ahead to 2018, to strategy for the midterms, and bringing peers together to mobilize.
So yes, I feel especially proud today to declare myself part of the liberal elite. I recognize my privilege. I am a straight, white, middle class woman with degrees from two Ivy League universities who is gainfully employed with job security and full benefits. I’m going to weather the storm. And if I were the type of person who could look around and say, “Well, I’m good. Carry on,” then we’d be done here.
But I’m not that person. I never have been. I wasn’t raised that way. I was raised to value human life, to show compassion for every person I encounter. Believe it or not, most of my values come from my Christian parents (Catholic dad, Episcopal mom). I come from a family with very strong roots in faith, and while I don’t currently retain any ties to a religious organization, those values don’t go away. That’s right, Trump supporters! You can be liberal AND have faith! I’ve even read the Bible – and I still keep a copy of on my bookshelf! But here’s the thing that sets us apart: my values don’t really look like the conservative Christian values I hear so much about. My values tell me that we are all equal, and that we are all deserving of respect. I was raised to believe that if I have the ability to help someone, then I should help them, whatever form that takes.
And so, through this dumpster fire of an election, this member of the liberal elite is going to use her privilege to speak the fuck up. I will not sit idly by and let people spew hatred and vitriol. I will have the hard conversations. I will call out racism, bigotry, intolerance and hatred when I see it. I will do everything in my power to make this world a safer place for the people who do not share my privilege. Who’s with me?