“This is crazy, the streets of IV are on fire.”
As Donald Trump walked down the stairs of his Manhattan lobby to give his victory speech, I turned the tv off and went to sleep. The feeling was so surreal that I couldn’t tell whether I was dreaming or not. At the time, I had a lot of school and work to worry about so I did not want to let the election kill my vibe. I changed my clothes, brushed my teeth, and laid in bed wondering what is going on right now in America. To find out what was happening, I took to my normal pre sleep routine of checking out social media. On that night, the feed on my iphone was flooded with paragraphs posted by people both upset and ecstatic. One of my friends posted on her facebook wall, “this is crazy, and now the streets of Isla Vista are on fire.”
Knowing many friends that live in Isla Vista, including my younger sister, this caught my attention. To fact check what I had just read, I checked my snapchat to see if any of my friends were partaking. Indeed, many of the videos that popped up were of my friends running and yelling in a large mob. In the middle of the night, the dark streets of IV were alive with rage. It was not surprising to hear the chants of hatred.
On the night of the election, thousands of university students took to the streets protesting Donald Trump’s win. This was a normal response to a highly emotional moment. I spoke with former SBCC Professor and Board of Trustee President, Dr. Peter Haslund, to get his take on what is happening with the response to the election. The immediacy of such a large and organized response by students is evidence of a fast changing society. I wanted to find out exactly how this response may have been influenced, and how I should act moving forward.
Dr. Peter Haslund
With all the protests happening, how do we approach everything that’s happening in the most effective manner?
“Do it peacefully, and don’t do it stupidly which is to do it alone, or in the spur of the moment. You organize, think critically, take Trump at his word that he wants to be the President of all Americans, that he intends to do so on the basis of constitutional reality. Whenever he moves out of that realm, you work with others and other groups to hold his feet to the fire. And you don’t surrender democracy. Democracy is only really effective when people buy into it, when they accept the responsibility, for knowing, for finding out, and then for working together. Rarely are individuals effective. We are more effective in community. Where you work with others, first of all come out with better ideas, and secondly, when we present ideas we present ideas as a group as opposed to an individual.
Coming together in this compressed world, especially America which evidently has such high differences in opinion, did America need Trump to be elected to deal with our differences? “We are going to be diving into the differences. We need to take Trump on his word. In his victory speech he said he was going to be the president of all americans, pledged to work for benefit of all Americans. We now have to hold his feet to the fire.” What happens if he starts to act the way people feared, taking away rights or posing threats to American people? “We have a constitution. We need to be vigilant about defending the constitution. That’s going to be more difficult because we no longer have possibility of exerting influence through supreme court. Hopefully be surprised by Trump appointee to Supreme Court. He needs to take steps in showing impartiality, steps towards unifying the country. He has to do that in order to get anything else done. He realizes he lost popular vote.”
Dr. Haslund pointed towards globalization as the reason it is becoming more difficult for different cultures to adjust and mesh while becoming so interconnected. This is what he describes, “has had its impact on who we are, how we work together, live together, survive together. We’re kind of in transition as a human society. We are infinitely and more frequently in touch with people whose cultures, languages, economic and political systems are vastly different from ours… we got to know each other, but we didn’t especially like what we found.” Opposing viewpoints have always stood in the way of unified nations. In this election it was disagreement that carried the influence for both candidates.
To better understand everything that is happening, he suggested we “acknowledge that there were reasons why Trump won, and work together with, try to set aside temptation to go to combat, that’s the easiest thing, and we have a long history of doing that, upping the barricades, but it’s not effective. Question is whether we want to be effective, or whether we want to have immediate emotional release.” We do have to fight and stand up for what we believe in. So are students right to protest?
Rising together is the act of democracy we are entitled to utilize at all cost. According to Dr. Haslund, the key to success is discussion. Americans have always disagreed. As long as there is a discussion, there is an opportunity for mutual settlement.
Although nothing was actually on fire, the collective emotional response burned a message throughout America. There is clear disagreement. What these protests show is that a massive amount of Americans disagree strongly with what Trump has promised to do. As Dr. Haslund prescribed, be smart, organize together, and use the processes of democracy to make sure America does not become a divided nation.