In the days following the election in November, some of the most interesting exchanges I had were with my Chinese students, who are here on student visas getting their masters’ degrees in Chinese language education. For one, they weren’t very clear about why everyone in our very liberal region was so concerned about the president-elect. Trump’s conflicting campaign rhetoric about China seemed to have resulted in mixed messages in the Chinese-language media and social media. The electoral college was also something of a mystery to them (as it is to many of us) and they were not entirely sure the election was actually over.
The most interesting comment by my Chinese students, however, was this: “At least you can vote. We have waited 5000 years.”
So, I suppose we have that. Of course, the Chinese and American political systems are not the only options, but if I had to choose between the two, I would choose ours. Even if that means I have to accept the current president as my own.
As much as we liberals complain about the American system – the electoral college, the gerrymandered districts, the two-party gridlock – we do not want to lose it. We may have hoped that Jill Stein’s recount efforts in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania would turn something up, or that the electoral college would elect someone else, but we also wanted a peaceful transition of power. We may have lost our faith in the American electorate, but we will return to the polls in 2018 and 2020. We may hate hearing Trump and his supporters’ rhetoric, but we want them to enjoy the same freedom of speech we do.
Many of us exercised our freedom of speech this past weekend, in Washington and in cities around the globe. I attended the Women’s March on the Mall in Washington, D.C., and it was in incredible day. The crowds were larger than those on inauguration day (“alternative facts” notwithstanding). There was not a single arrest. There was no violence. I did not have to use the bandana I brought along in case of tear gas. Women came from Ohio, New York, North Carolina, and farther, wearing pink hats and carrying signs. There were old women, young girls, women carrying infants, women in wheelchairs, and quite a few men.
The March wasn’t perfect. There have been a lot of criticisms posted online, and many are justified. There should have been more enthusiasm for the “Black Lives Matter” chants. There should have been less enthusiasm for the ones making fun of Trump’s appearance. Protesters should have stopped chanting “let us march” and turned around to listen to Angela Davis as attentively as they did for Madonna. The organizers should have been more open to intersectionality, and people of color should have been more involved from the very beginning stages.
But it was still an incredible event and an incredible day. It could have been better – but it was very, very good. It was the first step in a long fight to make America great on our own terms. We marched for civil rights, health care, equal pay, reproductive rights, and education. We marched for our grandmothers and for our granddaughters. We marched because we believe our country is very, very good – and because we believe it could be better.