No matter what side of the political fence you stand on, you can’t deny that the past week in national politics has been controversial and divisive. The United States has elected its 45th President, and he has now taken office. A large percentage of America is pleased with this, and a large percentage of America is anything but. At the moment, social media is filled with people voicing their opinions and other people telling them they shouldn’t express how they feel. The First Amendment protects the right of each and every American to have and express an opinion, and we should all remember that while we may not agree with one another, we do not have the right to silence one another. Those who voted for President Trump have the right to celebrate his transition into office, but by the same token, those who voted against him have the right to continue disagreeing with his election without being told they are “snowflakes” who need to accept the election’s results and move on with their lives. Here, I will attempt to clarify a common misconception.
The people protesting and using other methods to express their disagreement with the outcome of the election are not doing so just because they didn’t get what they wanted. They are dissatisfied with what the election’s outcome means for themselves and for the people they love. On Inauguration Day, the White House website removed links to pages discussing climate change, health care, civil rights, and the rights of the LGBT+ community. Perhaps the pages will return as the site is remodeled and the President’s new policies are given places on the site, but for the moment, only time will tell. Quite a few people are frightened of what this means, particularly when Vice President Pence has been known not to support the LGBT+ community through his legislation and when the Senate is working toward the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which has assisted millions of American citizens in paying for their medical expenses.
As a full-time student preparing to graduate with my B.A. and enter graduate school, I have not yet been able to take on the type of job that would provide me with healthcare benefits. I also have a pre-existing, incurable autoimmune disease. While I am still eligible for healthcare through my parents for a few more years, the Affordable Care Act would guarantee that I could still purchase health insurance coverage when it comes time to move to my own policy. Without this provision, insurance agencies could deny me treatment because of a health condition I could do nothing to avoid. It’s possible that whatever new plan Congress proposes will still allow for this type of coverage, but for now, I’m unsure of what will happen, as no alternative has been suggested.
That’s one reason that I’m scared, and I’m just one person. Imagine how many reasons half the nation has when they're put together.
I’m also a woman on a college campus. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website, one in six American women becomes the victim of sexual assault in her lifetime, women of college age are three times more likely to experience this than women in general, and men in college are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted than men of the same age not attending college. Whether or not President Trump has actually committed any form of this type of assault, the fact that his banter with Billy Bush was reduced to “locker room talk” and treated with the same “boys will be boys” mentality that is often used to dismiss uncomfortable situations presents a real problem. It encourages this type of behavior that gives false permission for people to reduce others to objects of their own desires, and it belittles women. As a result, many women feel unprotected and unsupported by the President’s administration. This is severely compounded by the attempts of politicians to defund Planned Parenthood, which does far more than anything related to abortions. The organization provides medical care, cancer and other disease screenings, and birth control, which some women (myself included) have been forced to turn to for medical reasons. Denying women access to these services is detrimental to their health and to their rights as American citizens.
In addition to the Vice President’s stance on LGBT+ issues, the President himself has pledged to support the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which will make it impossible for businesses that discriminate against members of the LGBT+ community to face repercussions for it. At the moment, it is illegal for someone to face discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but FADA will make it possible for this to take place. While religious liberty should absolutely be protected (for all religions), your right to practice what you believe should not also become the right to treat someone else poorly because of who they are. Passing legislation that makes it okay to deny service to anyone for any reason would not be supporting our nation’s founding document, which states that we are all created equal and endowed with the same unalienable rights. Members of the LGBT+ community and its allies are concerned because they and the people they love are at risk of facing further discrimination – legalized discrimination.
If you agree with the President and support his decisions, that is absolutely your right, and no one can take that from you. But please understand that if someone doesn’t, it isn’t because they’re just upset that their candidate lost. More than likely, it is because that person or someone they love is at risk of losing something dear to them, be that anything from healthcare to the right to be protected from discrimination. If none of these things come to pass, that is fantastic, and we don’t currently know what the President has in store for America. But for the moment, that uncertainty is going to unsettle people, and that’s perfectly okay, too.