The hope and poetry of protest

For some, the light in the darkness came when attending rallies/protests against America's President-elect Donald Trump. (Jason Jiang/The Daily Campus)

Last week, the country I call home reaffirmed its white supremacist roots for the world to see, voted against its own interests, committed countless hate crimes and made my friends and family cry. The lone light in this darkness, for me, at least, came when I attended a rally/protest against America’s President-elect. And yet, there are many citizens across this republic hoping to extinguish that light.

Let’s be truthful about this situation: The Right and the Left both wanted total victory. That doesn’t just mean having majorities in the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches (which Republicans soon will), that means annihilating any source of joy or optimism for the opposition. It’s like when my old basketball coach, in reference to the opponent, used to implore us to “take their souls.” We’d play with the hope of celebrating over lifeless bodies by the game’s end.

Conservatives learned that there’s a whole lotta liberal life left in the United States despite Hillary Clinton’s Electoral College loss, and they are not pleased with this revelation. It is their wish that the American people come together and unite under the new president, that the protesters stop whining, that everyone accept the results. Huh. This is…curious…for two reasons:

1. These are the same people who unified to vehemently deny any legitimacy to President Barack Obama, who held up racist signs  in protest of his election and his policies, who said he was not their president. Did elected Republican officials attempt to quell this anti-Obama tide? No, they exacerbated it by literally refusing to do their job all the way through the president’s last months in office (see: Merrick Garland).

And 2. More Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump. As of right now, she has 61,963,234 votes to Trump’s 60,961,185. Furthermore, once all the votes have been counted come December, Clinton could be up by two percentage points and millions of votes. Protests – currently occurring across the country, consistently numbering in the thousands – haven’t even specifically focused on this egregious fact. Rather, the demonstrations have acted as a voice for the frustration of millions who feel the upcoming president’s leadership will directly affect their lives for the worse. This means women, black people, undocumented immigrants, Muslims, Jews, Latino people, Hispanic people, those who identify as LGBTQ, disabled people and other marginalized groups. This is because the man set to hold the highest office in the U.S.A. unequivocally disparaged the existence of all who were not straight white men, whether through his rhetoric, his lack of denunciations for racist/sexist actions or endorsements, the company he keeps/has kept or his policies. We, meaning anti-Trumpists, seem to be so overwhelmed by the evil condoned during this recent election cycle that we haven’t been able to really make the cogent argument that the winner of the most votes should always be elected, that casting a vote in California should not matter less than doing so in Montana, that Trump agrees the Electoral College is outdated, he said so in 2012, or that Republicans at large, so keen on Clinton’s supposed corruption, would be losing their minds if Trump had won the popular vote and lost the Electoral College. The most activists can do right now is collectively grieve for the future and assert their agency.

Not to worry. This is but the introduction to the conservative comeuppance.

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And so it was on Wednesday, Nov. 9, that UConn students stormed Storrs campus in an extemporaneous, grassroots protest, like the peers who had passed through these idyllic farmlands before, be it last year, two years ago, or the Vietnam War, and it was raining down on the heads of hundreds who marched, but that was no matter, for the beauty Americans aspire to is at stake; dressed in all black, we met at The Husky adjacent to Gampel Pavilion, but this was no game, and we came to Wilbur-Cross, that old library, to stake our claim, not only for all to be certain of our loyalties (“Not my President!” “F**k Donald Trump!”), but to make demands to administrative officials, to call for noble things like divestment in prison products and defense plans for the possible deportations of our valued undocumented students, to engage the powerful and perhaps begin to enact change; the entire action rose from the abyss, a Facebook event appeared at 7 a.m., texts were sent, social media statuses were changed, and the epicenter of campus that day, Connecticut’s story of the hour, the concern of the country, was us; and students took to the impromptu stage – a stately stairwell at the back of Wilbur Cross – to rail against the injustices they’d faced, the sexual attacks they’d been through, never neglecting to mention our great 50 states elected an accused rapist, a man who has bragged about sexual assault; students took to the impromptu stage, in front of state representatives, university officials, pupils of every creed, club, voting bloc and variety to announce they wouldn’t be harassed for their sexual orientation any longer, that inaction from the university on inequality would have consequences; students stood up and said they would not allow a hint of prejudice due to their melanin, and amongst all this, I had to leave the ground floor to stand on that spontaneous stage with them; it wasn’t my day, but it is, and always has been, my fight, The Good Fight, there for those who wish to take it up, so I had to see the masses, the signs, I selfishly had to be encouraged that the failures of my people wouldn’t put an end to any progress that’s been made, and, briefly, I was.

The event’s creators, made up from different minority groups, but predominantly undocumented immigrants, were the same people that appalling man denigrated on his way to the White House, yes – the scapegoats of the soon-to-be commander in chief’s campaign were the individuals who impressively arranged this robust showing. They championed love when the nation showed them none. With the homeland in flux, they made UConn hopeful again.


Sten Spinella is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at sten.spinella@uconn.edu. He tweets @SSpinella927.