On division and dialogue: A response to the Editorial Board

Opinion by Stephanie Chen
Nov. 9, 2016, 2:31 a.m.

Let me say first that I stand fully with the rest of the Editorial Board in condemnation of Donald Trump.

I believe that he is unfit — temperamentally, practically, morally — to lead this nation. His lack of awareness of or interest in policy worries me; his blatant disregard for our democratic institutions and the concept of truth itself shocks me; his rhetoric — towards women, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, ethnic minorities and many more — appalls me. His words have incited violence and mainstreamed hatred; his campaign has encouraged and exploited divisiveness beyond any in recent memory.

And yet we, the people, elected him. Donald Trump was elected yesterday by us — not by bigots, not by racists, but by nearly 60 million Americans who connected to some promise in his candidacy that many of us at Stanford did not recognize.

I find myself dissatisfied with the Editorial Board’s tone in today’s piece and with its choice to reassure instead of question. To reassure is to comfort, to soften grief with reaffirmation, a warm sense of unity in a cold, unfamiliar place — in an America that “may not feel like home today,” as the Board put it.

It’s troubling to me how easily we at Stanford might resonate with this picture. It’s a view that takes for granted an “us” and a “them.” We hug ourselves and we hug our friends and we forget that this cold, unfamiliar place is the country that 60 million Americans finally feel is home.

Whether you are terrified, frustrated or exhilarated by the result of this election, we should all be profoundly disturbed by the depth of the divisions that it has exposed in this nation. We are the ones who generate today’s political climate, and we bear responsibility for it. Every time we share Republican jokes from “The Daily Show,” every time we declare things like “if you vote for Trump, tell me so I can never talk to you again,” we contribute to the growing American divide — one that has split not just our politics but our media diets, our core values and our individual understandings of what is, in the end, a shared world.

I’m not asking you to understand the other side. I’m asking you to try working past even the idea of an “other side” — to try talking to instead of making assumptions about the real, multidimensional people around you, some of whom may have supported Donald Trump. The word “empathize” comes to mind.

Maybe I’m being an idealist. I write with the privilege of being less immediately targeted by Donald Trump’s rhetoric; maybe I’m failing to fully comprehend the fear that some of us feel. But I ask that if you disagree with me, you tell me. Help me inform myself. And if you, like me, would like to minimize the impending damage I’m afraid Trump’s presidency will cause, I ask that you take action — not to protest blindly or reassert what you’ve heard a thousand times, but to ask questions and listen to answers, to persuade, to vote, to build coalitions, to demonstrate with informed purpose, to engage in politics at its core: with people.


Contact Stephanie Chen at stephchen ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Stephanie Chen is a senior from Cupertino majoring in computer science and minoring in literary translation. At The Daily, she was previously managing editor of opinions, managing editor of copy, and a member of the editorial board for Vols. 250 and 252. If "work-life balance" were a concept that made sense on this campus, she'd say that she enjoys spending her "free time" swimming, reading longform journalism, hanging out with friends, and making dinner plans that inevitably fall apart.

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