Pellissier: We can continue to fight for change after Trump, while listening

Bernie Pellissier , Op-Ed Contributor

This past week since election night has been a whirlwind of emotion. As University President Schapiro stated in his email to students on Wednesday, this election has “shaken some,” while being “a pleasant surprise to others.” Many in the NU community were left feeling hopeless and fearful for their future in a way that I cannot understand, as Trump did not threaten any part of my identity during his campaign.

The only thing I can do at this point is observe, and what I have seen has been nothing short of sickening. On social media, I have seen a video of former University of Tennessee linebacker Chris Weatherd walking outside to see that his car was painted with racist epithet and “Trump!” on the window. I have heard stories from my friends at Illinois State University of black students being egged while they walk through campus. I have seen a video of a Trump supporter being dragged out of his car in Chicago and beaten while people watch and laugh. I have seen anti-Trump protests become violent, most notably in Portland where police publicly declared the scene a riot after local businesses were vandalized and police officers were attacked.

Our nation is at a crossroads. We face a greater divide both ideologically and socially than many of us can ever remember. Is it possible that we can ever become less divided? While the optimist in me says yes, the realist in me says that the challenges of bringing people together will require more energy and effort than I can currently conceive. However, at NU we are lucky to be surrounded by peers with the acumen and the drive to face a problem so large.

Northwestern students are an opinionated bunch. In my time here, I have seen many students unwilling to even talk to Trump supporters, including some publicly cursing out these students online. Yet after the shock many of us experienced after Tuesday night’s results, it’s evident that the way we see the world, tucked away in our Evanston campus, is quite different from the way much of America does.

The first step to solving a problem must be about understanding people –– this is exactly what is hammered into my head every week in my Design Thinking and Communication class. We must take a step back from what many thought was an obvious choice and ask, “Why do so many people think differently than we do?” This requires a concerted effort at dialogue, one founded on the idea that while the person sitting across the table may have very different ideas and opinions, their presence at the table indicates a willingness to listen and engage. We must raise the level of our discourse, rather than hurling defamation at those who disagree with us.

Future change will take cooperation and patience from all sides, and a commitment to dialogue without judgment. It will take an effort to stay calm and reflect on what has happened in this election and what actions need to be taken in the future. I am confident that we can overcome the divisiveness in our country.

America is great because we can engage in healthy debate and cultivate a multitude of opinions. Today, we are in danger of losing this because the aftermath of this election has been playing out in assault and hate speech, not healthy discourse. We, as students, represent the future. We must continue to stand up for what we believe in, but we must never forget to listen.

Bernie Pellissier is a McCormick freshman. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.