I was in eighth grade when Trump was elected president. I had tried to stay up to hear the results on November 8, but I didn’t make it. I fell asleep sure Clinton would win, that I would wake up knowing the first female president was elected. When my alarm clock rang, the first thing I did was pick up my phone. I googled “Who is the president of the United States” and began to cry. Three more times I Googled the question, hoping that I would get a different answer, but every time those 304 electoral votes gleamed back at me in the dark—telling, unchanging.
I was late for school that day, but I think everyone was. Something had gone wrong with the lights at school, so the hallways were dim and gloomy. The darkness felt right. Throughout the day, I cried with my friends. We asked each other what was going to happen—were we going to be okay? No one knew. At the GDS middle school, there wasn’t a special assembly or gathering. Some teachers set aside their class time for us to talk; others felt the best thing they could do was carry on as usual. For the most part, students were left to mourn and conjecture on their own.
The darkness that fell on GDS in 2016 was heavy—and we know so much more about Trump now than we did then. In the last four years, Trump has proven his racism, misogyny, Islamophobia, antisemitism, anti-immigrant xenophobia, transphobia, homophobia, cruelty and selfishness over and over again.
In 2020, there is another added layer of anxiety. If Trump is reelected and maintains his policies on COVID, thousands more people could die and lose their jobs and homes. Additionally, because of mail-in voting, the country may not know the results of the elections on November 3. Instead, there may be weeks of confusion and chaos leading to a result that, if not in his favor, Trump has already insinuated he will not accept.
During a time of intense uncertainty, students will need their school community more than ever. We will need caring adults to hear our worry and maintain structure to offset the feeling that everything is turning upside down.
If Trump wins in two weeks, I have no doubt that many GDS students will be terrified. During Trump’s first term, we have witnessed the erosion of democracy and disregard for constitutional rights. As young people, we have no security in the future of our country, and if Trump is reelected we will be even more unsure. But for students from marginalized groups, there is an even greater fear: the continued loss of human and civil rights.
A Trump victory would affect every GDS student, faculty and staff member differently. Many would feel fear, anger and betrayal. Some may feel victorious. Many would feel like we are teetering at the edge of a cliff, trying desperately to regain balance, and would rely on each other for strength and comfort.
When I look back on that Wednesday in eighth grade, I remember feeling like I was floating, like what I was living through couldn’t possibly be real. If Trump wins again, this is what I would ask of my community: Ground me. Prioritize our mental health. Give us the space to be angry and scared. As adults in the community, let us come to you to process however we can, and, for the students who prefer to process alone, forgive their silence.
Liana Smolover-Bord ’21