Honestly, I thought Brexit was going to be the biggest political disaster of 2016. How wrong was I. I was fortunate enough to spend two semesters studying at North Park University, but my time was plagued by three questions from every American I met. 1. What part of England are you from? Answer being nowhere, I’m Welsh. I have my own language! 2. Do you know the Queen? Truthfully, I could never take this question seriously. 3. How do you feel about Brexit? I would normally reply to this with an eye roll, a sigh, and a hearty bit of advice “Don’t make the same mistake we did.”
So, imagine my shock and despair when on November 8th I, along with the entire United States, watched Donald Trump installed as the new president. This will be one of those moments where in the future people will ask if you remember where you were at the exact moment you heard that Trump had won. And I do. I was with all my international friends and the odd American sitting in Einstein Bros in the comfy booths with the tables at the far side of the café area. Eyes glued to the big flat screen television, sweat running down my neck, I remember my heart dropping.
In that moment I genuinely felt like the beginning of the end had begun. One of the most important lessons I learnt during my time at North Park was that of privilege, what privilege was, what privileges I had, and how important it was to check one’s privilege. As an openly gay man and an immigrant at the time I suddenly felt unequal to many people around me. I already had a genuine fear that due to Brexit when it came to me returning to my home country at the end of my studies there was potential I may run into many issues with have a EU British passport. But now I was suddenly fearing for my safety in a whole heap of different ways. Was I safe to stay in the country? Would I get pulled into the back of a government van and deported dramatically? Was I safe to walk the streets as a proud gay man?
The next day was the worse. I had my Women and Gender studies class. The atmosphere in that classroom was painful. Sitting there in a position of privilege being a White Male who wasn’t American I saw real pain and loss in the eyes of my female peers. More so in those who were proud women of colour. I think the following women’s marches that happened after the election announcement was testament enough to how heart breaking and worrying this result was. But another lesson I learnt from my American cohorts was this; When the going gets tough, you get tougher. The outcome to the election results, the marches, the raising of voices in protest was magnificent. The power of the people was real. And they were not going to take things lying down. That was a truly beautiful sight to behold.
Now almost a year on from Brexit and Trump’s election it’s clear to see that both sides of the pond are deeply troubled and in a heightened state of confusion. We as the people have no clue what is going to happen next, we live in a constant fear that everything we know, and love could be torn out of our hands at any moment. Our rights to love, our rights to exist, our rights to our bodies, our rights to our homes and healthcare. All of it is constantly under threat. But if there is one thing I am certain of in the face off all this uncertainty. When the going gets tough, you get tougher.
-Thomas Rowlands, U.K.
There is no way he will even be an option in the coming election. My entire class, along with my American Government professor, joked about the latest news of Donald Trump’s declaration for presidency. It was still 2016 and we were all baffled that he would even make such a declaration. It was a joke, just like Kanye stating his campaign promise of 2020. Little did we know, almost a year from that class period, Donald Trump would become the President of the United States. The day of the elections was stressful in my apartment. Some of my roommates refrained from voting, others were extremely passionate about their candidate. A group of us chose to watch the elections in the Einstein’s lounge with the other North Park students. Once it was clear the Donald was going to be our president, my friends and I called it quits and went home. That morning I remember checking my phone to confirm that Donald had become the next representative of the U.S.A. I was mostly shocked, I didn’t know what this meant for our country, for my friends, and for myself. Some of my friends protested, others spent the day in mourning. I was more interested to see what happens next.
Now it has been a little over a year with Mr. Trump sitting in the oval office. It is apparent that he is ignorant of other cultures and beliefs, as well as insensitive to those who desire to immigrate into our country for safety, reuniting of family, or the desire to live in a free country. I think these things are clear through his actions. I do think that the media paints him to either be a great leader or a babbling fool as they have with other presidents before him. It is important to realize that the media has played a huge role in the way we view Trump, and how even his own tweets have portrayed him.
On campus there is an obvious divide between those who voted for him and those that didn’t. I thought that the disagreement between the groups would diminish after the election results, but alas it is still a point of contention. There are some students on our campus who are known to be supporters of Trump, and there are others who are known to be Hillary Clinton supporters. I have seen moments where these students have both butt heads, and even situations where there was a questioning of their right to certain positions on campus because of their voting belief. There are some who stick their Trump signs in their windows to rally emotions and strike up tough conversations. Even today there are struggles within my classes and my friend group around the issue of the single vote casted last year. I have been told to stay away from certain people because they voted for Trump. I am frustrated because of the aggression that comes with both sides. It is idiotic to me that both sides continue to split further away from each other in disgust and anger. We are all wanting to be represented in our government and we see issues from our own cultural upbringing. If we came together with our combined cultures, and listened, I wonder what North Park’s’ Campus would look like. I wonder what Chicago would look like.
Ultimately, no matter how I look at this new concern, I have the privilege of being a white woman in this country. Meaning that I am not in the category of people that he would deem “terrorists, illegals, savages, etc.” Instead I am doing what I can to recognize his new changes, vote when possible, and stand up for those who around me because I can do so with my privilege. I don’t know where we will be a year from now, I do not even know if he will still be in office or if one of these impeachment accusations will stick and he will be removed. But I know that I will do the best that I can to ensure that those around me will be best represented by the person who is supposed to reflect all our best interests, and whose job it is to secure our liberties as free people of the United States of America.
-H. Rollings, NPU