Post-election is time for solidarity

As college students, we have all heard of the Treaty of Versailles, signed at the end of World War I and signifying the end of that "war to end all wars." The actinic irony of that piece of rhetoric is that the end of one war sowed the seeds of the next. Let us not repeat on this campus, or elsewhere, the continuation of division and disenfranchisement of whichever group that is not in power. To do so would be to dishonor the achievement we as a society have made toward greater equality.

Both candidates, winner and loser, remarked in the final speeches of their campaigns that they had spoken with one another in terms of peace, respect and with the express intent to use their time to make this country a better place, whether in the sought-after office or out of it. There need be no clearer message than that to indicate bigotry in either direction is unacceptable and has no place in the respectable political discourse.

This is a country founded on the idea of independence for all, that has seen three presidential assassinations and a civil war based in significant part on race. We have fought tooth-and-nail to see as less than human various groups of people who walk among us and interact with us everyday. Between the denial of marriage based on its perception as solely an artifact of a specific religion’s reproduction tenets and the skinhead anti "everyone who’s not me" rhetoric, others would be hard pressed to understand why we claim hate is not a family value here.

We can now definitively refute this perception. President-elect Barack Obama is a black man with a Middle-Eastern name, is educated, feminist, young and has run an uncompromising campaign. We elected him as president, and the sky has yet to fall. The world looks on us with an unmitigated sigh of relief, and it feels as if we have turned a historic corner, somehow moved from the brash ranks of sophomoric statehood to a nation with more political and civil depth than simple muscular thinking.

Sen. John McCain’s speech was eloquent and spoke of something greater than his part in the political play. He spoke of the greatness of what we can achieve as a nation, of respect and unity. Denigrating equality lowers us all, and tolerating bigotry without dragging it from the dank intellectual cave where it lurks is a disservice to all who disagree on the basis of real analysis.

Similarly, we all must also learn to not assume offense without being willing to identify and discuss it and accept the possibility of miscommunication. Creating a backlash of defensiveness and hampering stabilization of our country in the wake of this election, by intolerance and gloating, is similarly disrespectful and lazy.

We have work to do. All of us have the responsibility to hear the other side. We depend on one another – the country’s needs and influence is too great and complex for us to pretend we are our own secessionist islands. Let us learn from the lessons of history. Creating an emotional Versailles would turn victory to ash, and validate the fears that have divided us for so long.

Mohammed, an anthropology freshman, can be reached via [email protected]

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