Op-Ed: To the Land of the Free, From the Home Represented By Few

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I was not raised in a democracy. Although I hold an American passport, I have spent the last ten years in Southwest China. Growing up in communist China the idea of having a voice in one’s government always left a foreign taste on my tongue. I packed up my life in China and moved to America in June, receiving my first real introduction to democracy when I voted this election season; in what I have heard was one of America’s stranger elections.

Still a little puzzled about the ins-and-outs of democracy, I cast my ballot on November 8 with shaky legs. I exited the voting center alongside a young mom with her two children. Her little daughter’s pigtails bounced as she questioned her mom as to what all this election talk is about. I plead guilty to eavesdropping but I was fascinated as I listened to this woman explain the voting process: how we have the responsibility to pick who gets to lead us and how we must take part in this because not everybody has that opportunity. The young mom explained democracy in the simplest of terms, and tears pooled in my eyes as I thought about the implications of this freedom.

Those two American children represent a country of young people who will grow up knowing that they have a voice to raise. They will learn they have inherent value, simply by being. They are going to be taught that their opinions matter, that they have rights to be defended. They are going to be educated. I know some might take this as a given, but education is a privilege, not a norm, for so much of the world. These American children are going to be given the ability to build their future. Comparatively, they hold within them the right to choose a different path.

I have many critiques of American culture, but it always set my heart at rest to know that there are countries out there that embrace freedom in such a raw form. I am proud to hold a passport from a nation which has granted lovers the right to love, regardless of their gender. I am proud that there are shelters for the homeless and programs for the disabled. I am proud that children are provided with free education, and that little girls occupy the same desks as little boys do. I understand that the U.S. is not perfect, but these rights are not enjoyed universally. I am proud of many things American.

It is with this mindset, however, that I express my disappointment in American democracy. America has taken so many steps forward, but this past election feels like a tremendous step back. When I look at our future president, I am appalled that this was the man elected. This is not China, where officials gain power with under-the-table exchanges and whiskey-induced nods. This is America. I am not so much upset that Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the US but rather that the majority of Americans support the beliefs for which he stands.

Who are these people actually voting for him? I kept asking myself. I have realized I do not need to look any farther than the religious community I hesitantly claim a spot in — no farther than my own friends and family. I am a bit of an oddball myself: being both a liberal and a Christian. Moreover, I am thoroughly disappointed by the Christian community. “Christian” and “Republican” are not synonyms and Christians should stop referring to them as such. I do not believe that Christ holds a particular view of American politics, as the only political position Jesus expressed was his undivided loyalty to God the Father. Jesus Christ did not affiliate with any political party during his time on Earth, and I am hard-pressed to believe that he would change this status if he were around today.

And yet the majority of the Christian community ties belief in Christ to supporting the Republican party, with 81% of Evangelical Christians backing President-elect Donald Trump. I never imagined that Christ-followers in “the land of the free” would elect a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women. I am shocked that any female could vote for a man who lacks any form of basic respect for our sex. I am hesitant to follow our future President’s example and judge based on appearance alone, but he looks like misogyny to me. He looks like screeching catcalls and “boys will be boys.” I am not one to judge how a woman chooses to use her body, but it makes me cringe to think that our first lady — the highest female role model — will be most well-known for her nude modeling. I would like for young girls to be taught that a successful woman encompass intelligence, compassion and strength, not just sex appeal. Little girls are sexualized early enough; they should not be receiving the message that the most valuable parts of us as women are the curve of our breasts or the size of our thighs.

I do not think the explicit and implicit messages of the Trump campaign can be said in any way to reflect the message of Christ. I never imagined that “the home of the brave” would elect a man who lacks the courage to stand up for minority groups. I have but to walk down a New York City street to see how wonderfully diverse this country is. We are American, regardless of where we came from or where we are going. This election was won with divisive fear when America needed unifying peace. I believe that human beings have the right to basic respect, regardless of the color of their skin or what fills the location line on their birth certificate.

I do not want to live under a president who lives and breathes stereotypes; a leader who seeks to place his people in boxes. We are Americans and we do not fit in boxes. America is already great because we are free. Donald Trump may have won the presidency but he has not taken away our voice. We must raise our voices now, to ensure future generations can be heard.

OpinionGraceann Beverly