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Pushing fear aside

Fear is powerful, fear is all-consuming, and this Election Day, fear won out.

Republican Donald J. Trump, our new president-elect, won the Electoral College 279-228 early morning Nov. 9, and Americans’ reactions swung between two poles.

Liberals were horrified. Conservatives were elated. There was utter disbelief on both ends.

Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign had triumphed. Plans to build a wall between Mexico and the United States, to deport 11 million immigrants, to appoint justices who would overturn court decisions that legalized gay marriage and abortion, to “bomb the sh-t out of ISIS” and to totally and completely shut down Muslims entering the country … all became real possibilities.

Fear won this election for Trump. It’s what got a white, working-class caucus, which may have otherwise remained untapped, to the polls. But it wasn’t fear alone.

An unexpected majority of Republicans bit back their distaste on Trump’s shortcomings as both a candidate and human being because it was better than voting third party or, god forbid, Democratic. What became more and more evident as votes poured in was how deeply divided our nation has become — or perhaps has been for some time — about the social policies that affect Americans’ daily lives.

Smack in the middle of Philadelphia, the bluest region in the state, most of Drexel University seemed despondent about Trump’s win. Students said that classrooms had a sullen, quiet air Nov. 9. Hanging overhead seemed to be the question of what these election results would mean for women, people of color, Muslims and immigrants in the next four years.

The 45th president of the United States won the White House on a platform that vowed to strip away these people’s rights.

Thus, conversations around campus were fraught with fear about a Trump presidency and what this would mean in terms of our nation’s inclusivity. Tears were shed. Blame for this division was rampant — directed at Trump, his campaign and everybody who could have possibly contributed to Hillary Clinton’s loss.

Emotions wouldn’t be so raw if this election wasn’t centered around the privilege to define equality and freedom — words our nation built into our constitution but has always struggled to interpret.

The U.S. disparity over definitions stems not from privilege itself, but our failure as a nation to compromise and communicate between two extremes.

Fear is polarizing. Fear is divisive. Fear is unproductive. Fear is natural — but any action taken on behalf of fear will, in all likelihood, not reach your opposition.

But what our nation needs now more than ever is curiosity. We must learn to solve social problems from the ground up, using peaceful communication and open minds as our tools to do so.

‘How’ seems to be what everyone is thinking right now, but I encourage you to look at that question under a different light. Ask yourself, ‘How can we solve even half of the social issues this election has brought to the surface without dividing our country in half?’

Then, ask this question of anyone and everyone. If we want any chance of healing as a nation, we must learn to listen — from both sides — to one another’s answers.