A terrible week

Opinion by Ariel Kaufman
Nov. 14, 2016, 12:30 a.m.

One week ago, I sat in a crowded room and phone-banked for Hillary Clinton. Out of the hundreds of numbers I called, only a dozen answered, half of them were the wrong number, a quarter had already voted for Hillary and the other two had not voted. One of them I began to debate, even though we did not know each other’s names. The other man I talked to had tried to vote early, but never received his ballot. He had four hours left to vote that day, so I gave him the address of his polling place and, to the best of my knowledge, he went off to vote that very afternoon. I biked home from phone-banking with no hands. It was the moment right before twilight, where the sun makes everything golden and fleeting, and (for once) I had no complaints about the temperature as I rode to McMurtry, safe in my fervent belief that Hillary must win.

On Tuesday morning, I woke up feeling nervous and excited. I was painfully aware of the 30 percent chance that Hillary Clinton would lose, but altogether confident that people who had predicted this thing correctly tons of times could predict it correctly once more. Surely. Hillary already felt like my president; I cried when she hugged Obama at the DNC, she said all of the right things at every turn and most importantly, her opponent did not seem like a remotely feasible option. So on Tuesday I daydreamed through class, imagining the satisfaction as states turned blue, the whoops of joy I would hear come evening, the flood of relief at knowing that the orange caricature would be safely stowed in his golden cage. By 6:30 p.m., however, I was sitting on the ground in the company of a rousing fear. We all know the rest.

I was and continue to be appalled by the results of the election. Helplessness and devastation permeated the campus like smoke. In my Wednesday morning art history lecture, students were openly sobbing. Heads were cast down, greetings tinged with shared sadness. What I found rather amazing was the social acceptance of feeling terrible. It was not my first time feeling terrible at Stanford (though it was probably the worthiest reason of feeling this way), but it was the first time it was ever okay for me to feel terrible at Stanford. We did not have to blame our stress on homework, exams, lack of sleep, lack of employment or any of the other myriad categories we have created just to feel deficient in.

Unfortunately, this catharsis comes with dire side effects, in the form of a racist, sexist criminal entering the Oval Office come January. Political theorists, social activists and plenty of other brilliant thinkers more qualified to discuss politics than I am have commented on the reality of the next president. No matter how much we fear the undoing of President Obama’s many steps forward or try to view the president-elect as bereft of opinions, this situation is terrible. It is terrible that American thought is so divided; it is terrible that marginalized groups are not being treated with equality; it is terrible that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but will not be the next president. For now, it is okay to feel terrible.

Obama told us on Wednesday morning that we are now all on the same team, yet the chasm between and within Democrats and Republicans seems larger than ever. In order to seek truth and justice, however, we need to face that frightening abyss and accept that, for the moment, it feels terrible. But you can’t feel terrible forever.


Contact Ariel Kaufman at akaykauf ‘at’ stanford.edu. 

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