Four years ago, I was celebrating Barack Obama’s second election victory with friends in front of the White House. We were dancing in the streets and chanting “Four more years.” Today, I have woken up in a different world, which left me speechless, sad, and profoundly shocked. No more chanting, no more dancing.
I am shocked by the fear and anger that has turned the world into one that is very alien to me. When I first moved to Washington, DC, the US was an exciting place to be as a young European. While my home continent was caught in the deepest economic crisis since the Great Recession, the US seemed to be a bright spot. After the 2008 financial crash, the country was on the steady road towards recovery and Barack Obama’s re-election had ushered in a new wave of hope throughout the country.
Four years later, this hope has turned into despair. Looking back at my time in the US, I lived a bubble and did not understand what was going on in remote parts of the country. Of course, I knew that there was a different country out there, but I did not know how different. Of course, I knew that people were left behind, but I did not know how far left behind. Of course, I knew that people were angry, but I did not know how angry. To me the US was always a liberal, open country that cherished diversity. It was a country where I was greeted with warmth, kindness, and compassion. It was a country where I was a foreigner and still felt at home. And I refuse to let the outcome of this election re-define my perspective on this beautiful country and all the wonderful people that I met there.
Still, we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that the world fundamentally changed last night. We now live in a world, in which a man that insults women, minorities, and immigrants can become the President of the United States of America. This is a world that I deeply dislike and that I do not recognise as my own. Instead, as a German, I cannot help but think back to the history of my country. In fact, the victory of Donald Trump was announced in the early hours on the 9th of November, a day that is also known as the Day of Fate in Germany. The day marks the date of the (failed) Beer Hall Putsch 1923, when Hitler first attempted to seize power. It also marks the date of the Reichskristallnacht in 1938, when the Nazis destroyed Synagogues and Jewish property throughout Germany, killing hundreds of Jewish citizens, arresting many more, and putting the country firmly on the road towards the Holocaust. But the 9th of November also marks the date of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 - a day in Germany’s troubled history, which shows that hope, popular pressure, and the power of social movements can trump authoritarianism.
Moving forward, I urge everyone to remember both parts of Germany history; the tragic and the hopeful. In the face of yesterday’s events, we cannot let the tragic define us, but we have to channel the hope into energy and fight for a better world. A world in which every person independent of their gender, race, citizenship, or class matters. A world in which we protect the most vulnerable members of society. A world in which we support each other as we support our family. A world in which nobody is left behind. This is the challenge that will define our generation and history will judge us accordingly. It is time to rise to the challenge.