A letter from our editor-in-chief, Sofia Sears.
The world is a brutal thing that contorts and destroys; things do not falter in their impermanence or instability. Tonight is one of those very things we cannot ever accept or think of as fair but must live through anyways. It is a night that feels cruel, and unwanted, and we shiver away from in this nauseated helplessness, a feeling that we cannot control anything, that we can do anything to step out of the hells we construct for ourselves within the dynamic, shifting, painful throes of democracy, discontent, and liberty as a nation and people. We have never truly been a united thing; we are intrinsically a great quagmire of constantly evolving factions, of dissimilar, dissonant ideologies and experiences that struggle direly and perpetually to find any harmonious coexistence that will allow us to access empathy or compassion.
I cannot say that tonight will be easy or even particularly heartwarming. Tonight is the beginning of our grief; we will hear from the one man that can heal us, that can save us from ourselves, that can reassure us that nothing is forever, everything will change one day. One president does not define our everything. He does not dictate how we reflect on ourselves and our decisions. We are more than the unpredictability, turmoil, and torment the next four years may bring. We are hurting in a way that is unknown to people as young as me. I have lived the majority of my conscious, thinking, life, and my entire adolescence, in a presidency that has let me feel like I matter, like I am safe, protected, and able to criticize my country because of my love for it. I feel as if I know that whilst my president is by no means perfect, he represents me. He represents what I am, what I want to be, and how I want our country to exist; through discussion, disagreement, debate, but through compassion, empathy, understanding, civility, grace, humility, pragmatism, and human decency. President Barack Obama is an unprecedented man. He taught me how to learn things, about politics, about myself, about what I detest in our country and what things make my heart swell with appreciation and pride. I have found reflection in the Obama presidency and the legacy it have taught me to cherish. I know I am not unique in my aching tonight, and that is a reassurance, as selfish as that may seem.
Tonight is one of those few, remarkable, and often tragic moments in which we fall together, we hurt together, and we raise our glasses together, as indivisible from one another’s nationality in this American hodgepodge of identities. I am more than my ethnicity, sexuality, gender, socioeconomic status or even ideology; I am detached from the differences we often thrive on and instead thrust into the simultaneous heartache and comfort of forced unity. We are still here and tonight is one of those nights we cannot forget that. We must recognize how truly connected we are by our fear, our frustration, our need to fast-forward through the hell, no matter how inconsequential it may be, we all feel is coming in just days.
I cannot ever encompass what I have received from President Obama and his family into one mere “thank you.” I cannot encompass it in any words. I cannot write my way out of this one. I cannot write my way out, in the eye of this inexorable hurricane thundering like hellfire around us. I am frozen here, as I know all of you are. I want to get up but I am fallen tonight and I am trying to accept that this pain is not easy, but it is here, and I need to coexist with it somehow.
I am listening to “One Last Time” from Hamilton, desperately grasping at the bittersweet heartstrings of the resignation of George Washington, a man with dignity and undeniable flaws, a man that owned slaves, and trying to find solace in the song to let go of our first black President, our first transcendent President of my time. George Washington resigned voluntarily not truly due to his old age, but because he knew better than anyone the utter, dire necessity of teaching our country how to say goodbye. We need to remember this now. It was possible then, and it is possible now, in all of this mess.
I am not saying I am choosing complacency. I will not make this easy for President-Elect (I can still use that term right now…) Trump and his Administration. I will make it as difficult, as challenging, and as unsparing as I can from my meek position as a seventeen year old, naive girl. I will not cooperate with him or the precedents he has set. I do not accept a President that does not represent me or represent the colorfulness and heart of this nation. I understand his voters and their reasoning but I do not submit to passivity. I will do exactly what the Republicans have done for the past eight years to President Obama and the Democratic Party. I will be ruthless. I will not allow myself to bask in the luxury of my living in a liberal state to numb or desensitize me to the brash realities of the majority. I am far from okay or tolerant of the man we have elected.
I am under no obligation to quiet down or cooperate with a vicious, poisonous, pseudo-logical agenda I have no faith or belief in. I am not obligated to hear these men out, and I will, but I will not stop. I will protest, write, advocate, and fight through my heart and mind to find something resemblant of empathy or respect for every individual in this nation. I am not acquiescing to anything or anyone.
But I will listen to my President tonight, a man who truly is and forever will be my President. I cannot, no matter what he does or says in the future, truly accept a man who has bragged about sexual assault or demeaned the inalienable rights of my existence and identity as invalid, secondary, and irrelevant to his agenda or leadership, as my President. I will handle this without hurting anyone, as we all must strive to do. We must fight and resist without breaking ourselves into pieces. But we are in a newfound, largely unfamiliar territory for us youth of a hunger to recreate our country; to look the injustice and grotesque but predictable reality we now have in the eye and instead of rejecting it, we look at it and say, “let us find a way through; not a way out.”
President Obama, you are a man I will hold inside my heart as a man unbreakable and resistant. You are a person I trust. You are doing something unimaginable. You are handing over this country because you have dignity, and a responsibility to democracy, but I know you are going to fight for us the way we have tried to fight for you, and we will continue to do so. We will do everything in our power to uphold the legacy you have constructed that allows us all to feel heard, represented, and powerful in our position as the governed.
This is your one last time, Mr. President. This is how you teach us to say goodbye to you, to what you have represented, but not to say goodbye to resistance or your legacy or leadership. You are telling us- “I am leaving, but it is up to you all to fight on the way I have fought for you.”
Listen tonight, everyone. This is the night we have to reflect and hurt. We will mobilize and organize later. Tonight, we will take a moment to appreciate the man that has irreparably shaped and crafted the heart of this nation, of us. Do not consider this a farewell, consider it a call to action.
History truly does have its unflinching, unrelenting eyes on us. It is cliche but it is true. Do not forget it and do not let that potential escape your grasp. Ever.
And, Mr. Trump, in the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda, “When your people say they hate you, don’t come crawling back to me.” We are watching and scrutinizing you and criticizing you the way you and your party has done to our president for the past eight years. We are not neglecting hypervigilance; we are redefining it. We will not fail to call you out on every broken thing you do, every injustice you or your administration commits. Your Twitter and your egotism, your recklessness, your hypocrisy, your spite for truth and fairness, is not a thing we have ever tolerated before, and know, we will not be changing that any time in the future.