Today it struck me that I have not ever posted about politics on Facebook. That is, unless you count sharing articles I’ve written about taking action on climate change, which clearly puts me on one side of the incredibly polarized spectrum. I’ve been a supporter of Hillary Clinton since the start of this election, but I’ve been continually hesitant to share anything about my thoughts, my views, or my actions on social media.
Why is that? I think it’s because I’m worried that I’ll somehow say the wrong thing, or accidentally show the holes in my knowledge of the world that I know exist. It’s also because I’m conflict-avoidant; I don’t like the idea of speaking or writing in a way that might upset other people. For that reason, I decided that I’m a person that doesn’t like to talk about politics, whether that’s with friends and family or on a social networking platform. Opinionated or not, it’s just not my thing.
After last night, I don’t think that’s going to fly anymore.
Like many of my peers, I am deeply saddened, shocked, and frightened by the outcome of the 2016 election. There’s something unique about this particular fear, because I think many of us were pretty convinced that this wasn’t going to happen. Since August of 2015, the concept of Donald Trump running for president has felt like a joke, an unlikely possibility that nobody was taking seriously. Though it’s become more and more of a reality over time, I think some of that comically skeptical feeling has persisted over the last year – right up until the moment last night when he pulled ahead in Florida.
On the other side of the political spectrum, Hillary has faced an incredibly challenging road, first in the process of establishing herself as Trump’s adversary and then throughout the past few months as the two went head-to-head in some of the strangest – and most combative – debates in history. It seems like there has never been enough that Hillary can do to convince enough people that she is the right person to be president, even though I have always been certain of that fact.
Throughout the past few weeks it has seemed like Hillary Clinton becoming the next president of the United States is the only outcome that really makes sense. Unpopular or not, it seemed that people were starting to realize that Hillary was at least better than the alternative. When I cast my absentee ballot a few weeks ago, I believed that she was really going to do it. But I was still acutely aware of how been mind-bendingly challenging it has been for her to pull ahead considering that she has always been qualified for the job.
In that way, the slow but steady unraveling of the information the pollsters had been telling us for weeks was not surprising. Heartbreaking and disappointing and stupefying, yes, but not absolutely shocking. In the back of my mind, I have always worried that this was a possible outcome, whether it’s because most of America still doesn’t feel ready to elect a female president or because the majority of people really are dissatisfied with the current state of our country.
I can’t speak to why yesterday went the way it did. All I know is that this is where we are now. And for the millions of millennials who, like me, are on the verge of achieving our dreams or getting a job or whatever it is you do after college, we’re going out into a world that is very different than the one we had pictured or hoped to live in.
That’s scary. But at the same time, it’s a wake up call for people like me, who have stayed relatively silent on political issues over the past year. At such a tumultuous juncture of my life, I felt like all I wanted was for everything to go back to normal after the election was over. I could do my homework and finish off the semester and feel stable knowing that our country was moving forward, not backward, on issues like climate change and basic human rights. I was ready for everything to go back to normal. But that’s not what’s going to happen.
So the alternative for us – the members of my generation – is to continue the conversation far beyond what happened last night. I’ve been thinking a lot about my role as a storyteller lately. As an aspiring science journalist, I hope to break down complex issues like climate change and tell stories in a clear and compelling way. I feel like this kind of storytelling is essential to finding a path forward, especially when our future president has already promised to strike down the Paris Climate Agreement and still claims global warming is a “hoax,” despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. My job as a science writer, however, fits only one definition of what it means to be a storyteller.
We are all storytellers. Whether you choose to share your story through writing, music, posting on social platforms, marching in protest, or whatever other form, we all have a role to play now in order to change the conversation and move our country forward. Hopefully for everyone, telling that story involves voting in future elections and staying abreast of new developments, whether positive or negative.
There is a crucial lack of communication that has led our country to become divided on almost every issue, so much so that mainstream media did not see the results of this election coming. As a future member of the media, I hope that we can find some way to reconcile that divide and understand one another better. To do that, everyone needs to participate, not just journalists.
For all students, women, scientists, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and invested members of the American electorate, it is our turn to tell the story now. To change the narrative. Each person carrying their own thoughts and emotions on this election has a valuable role to play here and deserves to have their voice heard and shared. I’m not sure what the right answer is, and I’m scared of what happens next. But I think that stepping into a new role as storytellers is an important place to start.