Nevo: How we can heal

Lily Nevo, Opinion Contributor

After four days of constantly refreshing the Associated Press website and after four years of nightmarish democratic havoc, Americans breathe a sigh of relief as Joe Biden is our president-elect. Even with a Trump defeat, Trumpism is here to stay.

The supposed referendum on “the soul of our nation” revealed that we are still deeply divided on issues that many would consider non-negotiable. The shameless bigotry and disregard for human life that has dominated the political rhetoric for the past four years seemingly did not faze 70 million voters. How do we begin to heal when the country is stuck in a moral schism?

The first step to healing: we need to acknowledge that this country has never been great for all Americans. If Americans just learn about the evils of slavery, many will believe that devastating and dehumanizing racism was only present in our nation back then. We will never be able to truly progress without a collective admission of guilt for the generations of inequality and oppression.

If we frown upon the failures of the past without acknowledging our ongoing problems, we distance ourselves from accountability. Police brutality, transphobia, and the separation of children at the border are the realities of the country we live in.

Taking responsibility for our flaws is patriotic. Demanding that we do better is not entitlement, but rather the utmost form of respect towards the values this country was founded upon. The signing of the Declaration of Independence should not be our final commitment to freedom. Some seem to believe that penning the words “all men are created equal” automatically translated to equality in practice, and that we are exempt from doing the work. In reality, now more than ever, we must not turn away from the evident hypocrisy of our founding, and instead renew our vows to freedom, equity and democracy.

After a moment of reorientation, we must work to serve the coalition that propelled Biden to victory: Black voters. Early exit poll data shows that Biden won Black voters by a margin of 75 percent, and these voters are likely what gave him the lead in key swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Georgia.

The cries for justice of this summer must not be ignored simply because Trump is no longer president. In fact, a new president does not excuse us from doing the work. It gives us all the more reason to keep going. To all my fellow White people, this is not the time to check out. Change is possible, but only if we all fight for it.

We must also reconsider how we utilize morality, as it leaves no room for productive conversation. It is difficult to fight feeling with fact because data or science does not trump someone’s experience. The problem is that, given its rhetorical strength, we have resolved to using morality as the justification for just about everything. For example, Democrats like to claim moral high ground by condemning Republicans for only caring about the economy, while the economy is just as important an issue as something like healthcare. Likewise, Republicans tout the righteousness of their pro-life stance, yet many support the death penalty. It is time for both parties to step off of their moral pedestals and find some common ground.

Lastly, while this election may not have been the landslide that Democrats envisioned, there is much to be excited about. We have elected our first female vice president and she is also the first Black and South Asian person to hold this position. Transgender and nonbinary people have been elected to state senates and three Native American women have been elected to Congress, part of a record shattering 134 women already elected to Congress this year.

I am hopeful for what the next four years will bring, but we cannot blindly trudge forward without acknowledging the work that needs to be done within every American. At the end of the day, no amount of policy can change the way we respect each other: Only our hearts can do so. There is much that we have lost over the past four years, but our empathy for one another does not have to be one such thing. Compromise and decency are far from the solution to many of our problems, but I fear that without them, our division may reach a point of no return.

Lily Nevo is a Weinberg freshman. She can be contacted at [email protected] If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, 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.