By Anushka Joshi
“Moral victory and political victory are not the same. Political victory is possible. But we wanted to see a repudiation of this direction for the country, and that has not yet come. That hurts.” - Van Jones
At 17 years old, just one month shy of coming of age to vote, I watched the 2016 election unfold with a heavy heart. Unable to have my voice accounted for, I felt truly powerless and questioned the American values I thought I knew all too well. I grew up during the Obama years, with their politics, values, humor, grace, change, and patriotism. I was inspired by a President who also demonstrated what it meant to be a father, husband, citizen as well as leader. Suddenly those values came crashing down, and it was a rude awakening to the reality of the growing extremism all over the western world. My naivety was perhaps embarrassing, but it taught me that the future is unpredictable. You cannot take progress for granted, and we are all responsible for building the world we want to live in.
It’s impossible to change the world by yourself, but millions of people fighting collectively for the same future keeps the world moving. Many of my peers (hello Gen Z!) spent the past four years advocating, organizing, and mobilizing in light of this moment. Not for the sake of polarized political warfare, but for the opportunity to build a future together––one that works for everyone. To create a safe and equitable world, where everyone assumes the right to the infinite possibilities of the human experience.
I am inspired by the kids younger than me who took on this burden at such an early age. Community organizing and begging people to care is not an easy task. When doubt was casted about youth voter turnout, young people prevailed; showed up to the polls (or the mailbox!) in record breaking numbers. Young people are the ones putting ideas on the table, pushing the consciousness of this country forward, and demanding change wherever they go. That to me, is moral victory.
Yet, this race was closer than many anticipated. This country is divided beyond belief––in our priorities and beliefs. We know this tale––we have lived it for the past four years. Though I have faith that we will never stop fighting for the policies we want to see enacted, the real fight has just begun––healing. We must put aside our desires to defeat the "other side". This is about unity now. But is that even a possibility? Is that another naive belief? How long will it take? How do we do it!? Change does not happen overnight––this polarized division was not caused overnight. It has been marinating since the birth of this country. What does it mean to be a country, to be a nation? What does a homeland truly mean and represent? These are questions I don’t have the answers to, but hope to explore. I want a homeland that is a place filled with community, love, and opportunity. And so let’s build this ideal together. Everyone.
Despite these thoughts about unity in the front of my mind, I am scared by this daunting task. Like many around our divided nation, I easily lose patience with those whom I disagree with. I even lose patience when I argue with someone going in circles, when we are really saying the same thing. I recognize how much softening, listening, patience, and empathy it takes to have these conversations, and will take to even try to move towards the idea of unity. I find solace in the fact that it is not one person’s responsibility to move forward, rather it is a collective responsibility. That means that no matter how many times we fail, there will always be someone to take another chance.