Election Anecdotes

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Art by Jenny Gao

These anecdotes were written by members of the Editorial Board and other members of the Stuyvesant Community. They were placed alongside our Staff Editorial for Issue 5 Volume CVII, which can be found here.


Matteo Wong, junior

My mother, who has straight posture and green, sunny eyes, slouched back against the counter and gave the floor a dim, cold look. “In two years, you’ll be in college. But I can’t raise your sister in a country led by Donald Trump. If things begin to go badly, we’re moving to Italy.” Her face seemed to collapse. My mother, an immigrant, had reverted to her native Italian because she could not express her distress in English. My mother, who suffered her first 23 years in Italy, was considering moving back to a nation where sexual violence was legal until 1996; a nation where she would be an outcast for marrying a Chinese man. My mother, a small business owner, was considering moving back to a nation whose economy is in shambles; a nation where young people flee in order to have a chance to start their own business.

Alec Dai, senior

I noticed my white friends cried more than anyone else. They were shocked and distraught while everyone else subconsciously knew not to expect much from America. For the first time, my white friends’ perfect worlds came crashing down. For the first time, the bigotry and ignorance were clear. But hateful America has always been here. This racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and overall hatred is nothing new to minority groups. While my white friends’ bubbles burst during this election, my bubble burst when I was five. The kids down the street rang the bell of our house and screamed out for us to go back to China. I learned not to expect much when my seven-months pregnant mother slipped and fell in a white neighborhood and no one helped her up. I stopped crying when a man spit on me telling me to stop acting like a fag in the middle of Washington Square Park just last month. This election exposed what has always been there. America just took off the mask that minority groups have already seen through, and showed what it has always been.

Danny Akilov, senior

Having a more conservative viewpoint in Stuyvesant’s liberal environment has always affected my relationships with fellow students and several teachers.

When I came to Stuyvesant, the stigma against conservative beliefs was constantly felt. How could I not believe in banning guns, Affirmative Action and universal healthcare? How evil must I be to think that taxing the wealthy and redistributing to the underprivileged is not a good economic plan?

Simply put, it’s just not cool. If you are young and a conservative, you have no heart.

These tensions were further magnified during the 2016 election season. Donald Trump, although not my ideal candidate, held many conservative viewpoints that resonated with me. However, unlike for Bernie or even Hillary—who, interestingly enough, was never really liked at Stuyvesant, but rather settled for—you cannot outwardly go around wearing a Trump t-shirt or say you support him unless you want people giving you looks or teachers constantly challenging you for your beliefs.

I have many friends who, throughout this whole election process, were silent Trump supporters.  They feared that if they talked to their friends about politics and their views, they wouldn’t be invited to that party, or that their whole reputation would be ruined.

This is the problem at Stuyvesant and really in the Country. Liberals have won the cultural war. It is socially unacceptable to be a conservative or a Trump supporter, and if you do decide to voice your opinion, you’ll be labeled a racist, sexist, misogynist and a bigot. Rather than engage in conversation as to why liberal policies are the best path for America, there is this condescending atmosphere where liberals believe that they can never be wrong, and if you contest them, well, you’re just a horrible human being.

A simple scroll through your Facebook newsfeed after Trump won the election would give you a perfect example of this, where around 60 million people who voted for their candidate were instantly branded as dumb xenophobes. And this is the very reason Trump won.

The supposed “party of inclusion” included everyone except those who disagreed with them. And those who disagreed finally got up and spoke.

Michelle Lai, sophomore

“What did I expect? We’re just the minority,” my mother said sadly after it was clear that Trump was going to win. It was disheartening to see that her mood had completely changed from when she had gotten home that night from her trip to the voting booth, excited and hopeful that Hillary Clinton was going to break the glass ceiling. In less than 24 hours, she began to regret her decision of being politically active for the first time since she arrived in America from China. She wanted to live in a world where women could be treated equally and not be discouraged for pursuing their dreams; she wanted to prove to her mother that women can be strong and smart enough to lead a country. She wanted to end the sexism she had to deal with for over 40 years from strangers and people in her own family. But her faith in this country is only diminishing as the snide remarks from her colleagues at work and my own grandmother are becoming more painful to endure.

Peter Brooks, computer science teacher

I came to North America as a young child, with my brother and parents. We were penniless refugees. Most, though not all, of my extended family had escaped the death camps and forced-labor camps of WWII, and those who could leave fled from a crushed revolution in Hungary.  My family survived decades of persecution and bigotry before we left our home. Until now, we have felt safe in the U.S. – we never felt fear for ourselves and for those we know.

In this country the extent of ethnic violence has remained small due to the constant vigilance of citizens, some as volunteers and some for whom the work has become their job.  Many of these citizens have seen, or are related to someone who has seen, its horrors elsewhere.  The violence of ethnic hatred has remained relatively small here because of consistent pressure on our government and on law enforcement agencies to refuse to tolerate it.

This election has changed it all.  Donald Trump has openly expressed and encouraged racist views and actions. He has allowed Americans to blame their problems on Hispanics and their resentments on Muslims.  He has encouraged Americans to give voice to the primal fear of “others.”  He has planned to use the tremendous power of the state, the executive power of the presidency, to target and act against the ethnic groups he has named so far.

There are relatively few Hispanics and Muslims at Stuyvesant.  We at Stuyvesant might feel buffered from Trump’s hate-mongering. But because I fear for them, I fear for us. We have seen what happens when the persecution of some is tolerated by those who are “safe,” we have seen what happens when the state directs unhappy citizens to vent their distress on specific groups.  We have seen it Germany, in Sarajevo, in Rwanda, in Eritrea.  What’s left of my family saw it in Hungary.

I urge you: do not think that this reaction is unwarranted hysteria.

We must fight against this.  We must stand for tolerance, for kindness, if for no other reason than we may be next.

Karen Chen, junior

My mother tells me, “This is the real America; accept it.” She treats it as if accepting that the real America is where my Muslim friend fears her commute to school because she wears a hijab, that the real America is where my Korean friend can be told to “go back to North Korea,” that the real America is where a teacher is okay with a student transforming a problem into how tall the Trump wall will be if Mexicans are trying to jump to America at an angle of 45 degrees. “Move on” has always been her mentality, but acceptance of defeat is one thing. Acceptance of the demoralization of a nation is another.

Nadia Filanovsky, senior

I spent the night before the election at Whole Foods calling voters in Ohio and Florida. When I left, I went home and spent hours in my room calling people in those swing states. Why? Other than my nuclear family, most of my family lives in Ohio or Florida, or throughout the Midwest. Many of them I’m sure voted for Trump. I look up to Hillary as a role model, and as a woman who has always fought for what I believe is right. But to me, a lot of this election goes to trying to understand how people supported him. Yes, many of the people who supported him are racist, xenophobic, and sexist, among other things. But some of them aren’t, and a lot of those people are sick of hearing from liberals like us in the cities regarding what they need to do. I’ve been avoiding calling a lot of my family to talk to them about this election. But that’s what I need to do. That’s what everyone needs to do—we need to talk to people who have views different than ours to avoid this echo chamber. But we also need to keep fighting for what we believe in, just while keeping in mind the words we use.

Jonathan Mikhaylov, senior

I stayed up the night of the election waiting for the news channels to announce that he won. I remember the minute they finally called it when my dad ran into my room, asking me if I saw. We watched Trump’s victory speech and went to sleep.

The next morning at school, everyone seemed very depressed. My Trump-supporting friends were ecstatic. They wanted him to start his presidency right away. But basically everyone else was acting as if a huge tragedy had just struck the world.

I even saw a meme comparing 9/11 to 11/9, the day after Election Day, and I showed it to a friend, telling him it was insane that someone could even think to compare the events. That friend responded that 11/9 was way worse.

Personally, I thought everyone was overreacting. In my English class, which is full of Hillary supporters, everyone was talking about how it’s so crazy that most of our nation could want someone known for being racist and sexist as our president.

I just stayed quiet. Compared to most Trump-supporters, I am not very vocal about my views. I didn’t even vote in the school’s mock election.

Two days after the election, my friends and I had many arguments with students and teachers regarding the two candidates’ policies. Many teachers decided to talk about the election afterward, and how they couldn’t sleep the night Trump was elected. Some discussed how we got to this point in our country that so many people voted for such a bad candidate (compared to crooked Hillary). Others talked about how we basically need to fix people’s opinions so this doesn’t happen again in four years—while one of my friends was saying he thinks Trump will last for two terms.

I kept to myself during most of that time, except for a few arguments in the hallway. Honestly, it was partly out of fear that certain teachers would like me less or lower my grade for supporting someone who is such a villain in their minds.

I also didn’t want to lose most of my friends who are Hillary supporters and liberals, since they jump to conclusions and judge people really quickly without hearing them out. Overall, a lot of people, teachers and students, just make me feel like a bad person for having my own opinion and supporting Trump.

David Hanna, social studies teacher

The bullying and bragging by Donald Trump during the campaign, along with the foul language and the encouraging of racist and sexist viewpoints, dragged our country down an ugly path. Now, his election to the White House seems to be an endorsement of those types of behaviors and views. I’m most concerned about small children, and what this is teaching them. I hope that as president Donald Trump will surprise everybody by rising above his lesser angels and conducting himself with the sort of dignity commensurate with the office. I think he’s capable of doing this. Whether he will or not is an open question that many have already answered in their own minds. I think if he wants to have any hope of leading a unified country he will need to publicly and forcefully reject the bigotry of many of his supporters. On the other hand, those that claim he is not a legitimate president because he did not win the popular vote – though I sympathize with the anxieties they are feeling – need to recognize that, according to the Constitution, he won fair and square. Along with teaching me that it was wrong to bully and brag and to judge people because of their race or gender, my parents, grandparents, teachers, and coaches also taught me not to be a sore loser.

In my life, I  can look back at times when I, in fact, acted like a bully or a braggart, or a sore loser. But I can also say that deep down I always knew it was wrong when I behaved that way. I like to think that I have grown and that I’m a better person now. What made me recognize that I needed to grow was what I was taught, and what I saw modeled around me by my elders. In my opinion, it’s not just Donald Trump who needs to reflect on what he is saying, but all of the rest of us that need to as well. The small children who are watching and listening to what is going on are going to grow up and become adults and citizens. If there was ever a time to live our values, it’s now. For them. This, of course, doesn’t preclude taking a stand and protesting if that’s what you feel you have to do, but how you take a stand and protest is everything. Watching Donald Trump’s victory speech and seeing his young son on his left the whole time, I couldn’t help but hope that on some level Trump must be mindful of this too.

Max Onderdonk, junior

The results of the election didn’t really hit me until I got to school and heard people talking about it, and I realized everything was actually happening. I felt like I didn’t belong and that America wasn’t a safe place anymore. I began to lose faith in this country thought to be the home for everyone, as it became clear to me that a large part of the country I didn’t even know about was racist, sexist, and xenophobic. My family came here about 50 years ago for opportunity and they chose America because it was a place where everyone would be accepted. Today, I doubt if that is or ever was true.

Josina Dunkel, social studies teacher

I am taken aback by this election. I heard from a friend of a friend that she voted with the distinction being dislike or distrust. I realized I did the same. I disliked Hillary for her cronyism, pandering, and hawkishness. But I didn’t and don’t trust Donald because I can’t trust someone who is racist and sexist and xenophobic and petulant. I can’t see trusting him to lead a country with diversity. I can’t trust him to be diplomatic. I can’t trust him with military, political, or economic decisions which will have domestic and international decisions. But you could only trust him if you don’t feel like you will be carried out on a stretcher for protesting, or were not going to be stopped and frisked, or trusted that when he wanted to ban Muslims that didn’t mean you. But if you can imagine him reacting to the diversity in this country in ways the KKK would approve of, then I am not sure how you could trust him at all. Do we not all remember the poem? First they came for… empathy prohibits me from trusting that my white privilege insulates me from seeing his attacks on minorities as anything less than attacks on me.

Blythe Zadrozny, junior

I’ve always considered myself a pretty patriotic person. I know the stereotype of disrespectful, uncultured Americans, and I’ve read the statistics about how America lags behind much of the world in education. These things disturbed me, but I always came armed to those encounters with the memory of watching Obama’s inauguration speech in my elementary school gym, or with the knowledge I had picked up from the multiple presidential biographies that lined my shelves. I have always had extreme pride for the example America has set as a place for all people. This election has changed that for me. Imagining a man like Donald Trump pacing the Oval Office, a place many of the people I most admire have once occupied, makes me feel sick. I know we have had terrible presidents before, believe me, I’ve read about them. But this man, who represents the very parts of our country I believe are most in need of fixing, is by far the most troubling. My brother has spent the last decade of his life planning and preparing to become a diplomat. And when he called at 3 a.m. on November 9 to ask my parents if they thought he should change careers, that scared me the most. The fact that someone who believes his best use is representing our country can change his mind because he’s not sure what basic values he is representing anymore. Mr. Hanna spoke to my AP U.S. History class a few weeks ago and told us that even if you disagree with a president, your respect for the office itself overrules that. But with Trump, it just doesn’t. I’m worried if I’ll ever have the same respect for a president or our country again.

Shaikat Islam, senior

Union Square was not very eventful between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. My friends, seniors Jason Mohabir, Ahmad Alnasser, and Atikur Rana, and I left the subway intending to protest the election of president-elect Trump and we looked at a park brimming with protestors and the spirit of “smug-liberalism.” Socialist movements were looking for more signatures on their petitions, tourists were walking around with their cameras, and small groups of friends (many unlike ours) were wondering whether or not to protest with those present at the event, or grab some food at the Farmer’s Market that was going on simultaneously.

At one point, a man dressed in a “NY Mafia” t-shirt began walking around the park, repeatedly thrusting his groin toward passers-by. A few minutes later, two seemingly anti-Trump protesters subdued the man, and gave up, allowing him to continue his own absurd protest of sorts.

Rhetoric of outrage was ever-present in the Square, but it took  more than a quick look to actually gauge the ambience of tension. Many were taking advantage of the opportunity to sell shirts proudly portraying a rebuke of either candidate. Others were selling buttons. Safety pins were handed out in solidarity with minorities, the hatred of whom was legitimized by the election results. A chess game was played. The price for admission: voting.

Walking around the vicinity of Union Square was getting aimless, but a short while after hearing the complaints of Jason regarding the price of jerk chicken, I noticed an offshoot of the protesters actually starting to march. And we ran to catch up. Boy, did we run.

When we joined, the group had around 30 people. At the front were three individuals holding up two American flags, the stars replaced with a peace sign. The rest of the group was a medley of foreigners (non-New Yorkers) and what we presumed to be a group of local high school girls who were very outspoken on women’s reproductive rights. And then there was us, four Stuyvesant students, all of us first-generation immigrants. A couple who left the protest group in its nascence gave us a sign and a marker; after that, the rest is history.

Well not really.  

Fifth Avenue was our route and Trump Tower was our destination. Having some trouble coming up with our own slogan, our group came up with, “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here,” and the rest of the crowd, which had grown much, much larger, responded back in unison. “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here,” turned into “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here,” and the four of us were proud. Along the way, we encountered many other protesters, similar to us, abandoning their shopping trips and their restaurant dates to join the crowd. When we reached the New York Public Library, I wondered whether or not our action of protest was legitimate or even worthwhile. Trump had become our president-elect regardless, and the eyes of the two gargoyle lions protecting the library stared at me.

When we reached St. Patrick’s Cathedral, many were praying in the halls of the magnificent neo-Gothic structure, and two elderly women raised their fists in support of our protest. I smiled. Along the way, doormen in elite fashion boutiques shook their heads in approval, and my grin widened. Here we were, surrounded by ever-present, saturated symbols of a material, capitalist world, and the counterculture was apparent not in the twenty-somethings walking around on their phones, but in the elderly. Jason, Ahmad, Atikur, and I couldn’t help but make references to the Civil Rights Movement and the antiwar movement in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

By the time we arrived at Trump Tower, it was nightfall. The crowd’s voice in combination with the haze of the orange streetlamps made for an intense, emotional scene. There was no apparent organization in the protestors’ chants, but medleys of references to pro-choice, Planned Parenthood, Rudy Giuliani, equality, and Black Lives Matter were all there, and our immigrant chant got a few shout-outs as well. Natural factions formed within the jumble of protesters—teens, the elderly, LGBTQ+, and others were apparent, but musicians were in full force. One coterie of musician-protesters featured a hijabi drummer and saxophonist—a hype man was also there in full force, laying down the beat for the rest of the crowd to follow in suit with references to Trump, immigration, and reproductive rights.

Organization was not the highlight of the protest. People shouted at us to march downtown and we spread the message, and at one point, anarchists had come into the mix and we were confounded by our options. On one side of the street were the anarchists—on the other, were the original group we had led and followed before. We decided to march on the sidewalks—and not ruin the days of many others who might’ve been in an emergency situation. Some of the anarchists wanted to sit in front of traffic. It was hypocritical—after all, wouldn’t they be using the same buses that they sat in front of on Monday when they had to work or go to school? The NYPD quickly put an end to that and the bravado of the red and black flag subsided.

By 6 p.m., our protest found Park Avenue and we were marching along the buildings of the ultra-wealthy. Police officers were following us along the side of the road, and a few were even recording us. After a while of getting frustrated at the lack of organization apparent within the protest, our group left the rest of the crowd, satisfied with the 40+ blocks we had walked. We were part of history.

Jenna Bawer, senior

I’ve been trying to decipher how this came to be. We talked in our classes that maybe it was due to a silent majority afraid of being judged. Maybe it was how the government put him down, and everyone who hated the government wanted to bring him up to retort. Maybe people thought he was funny to watch. I used to laugh at him because I thought he would never be president, but now it isn’t funny because he might have power. I’m wondering what he’ll be able to get away with? Censor anything that he thinks isn’t fair to him? Deportation of Mexicans? Systematic labeling of Muslims? Conversion therapy for LGBT people? Defund Planned Parenthood? Would he take away my right as an autistic student to receive support for my mental health, considering he’s openly mocked disabled people? I hope he doesn’t actually follow through on everything he’s said, or at least is restricted by the other branches of government.

Arya Firoozan, senior

For the most part, people at Stuyvesant have been generally accepting of the fact that I am a Trump supporter. I guess a lot of people at Stuyvesant are really passionate liberals, because, whenever it would come up that I support Trump, they would always try to convert me. Yet, it seems as if most people at Stuyvesant aren’t ignorant and realize that New York City is not a good representative of the U.S.
For the most part, I tend to ignore my teachers’ political views because they are so liberal. Yet, I don’t really bring that up in class, not because I’m worried about my grades, but because politics is a topic that doesn’t come up in most classes. The day after the election, I found it hilarious that teachers actually did not come to school and that students began crying after Clinton’s defeat. I understand that they are passionate, but I definitely thought it was too much. If Trump had lost, I would’ve honestly been okay with it. I am passionate to a point that I supported him, but if he lost, then I would admit that his message didn’t reach enough people and that maybe the Republican Party should begin a shift towards attracting immigrants and younger voters.
Personally, I did not support Clinton because she came off as a liar, and she is a Washington insider, so I didn’t think anything would change for the better. I also really disliked the DNC’s treatment of Bernie Sanders and I feel as if the PACS and Super PACs really did him in there, when he could’ve been a stronger candidate. And lastly, I still don’t feel as if America is ready yet for a female leader. We’re in a perilous position right now with both Russia and China jockeying for power and I feel as if we need a strong leader, or at least a leader who gives off that aura, and I just thought that in this case, Clinton was not the best person for the job.

Anthony Valentin, social studies teacher

For my personal reaction to the election results, I offer an edited version of a letter I wrote to my daughter on November 9. Then, for my professional expression, I offer how I countered the reaction of my students during my US History class.

Personal Expression:

…Like you, I am not happy with the outcome of the election. Unlike you, I do believe that the dark cloud that hovers over our heads will move along. I have experienced an unfair amount of political turmoil in my life. I would go so far as to say that it makes this instance shrink in comparison.

Let’s look at a few of the biggies:

  • Assassination of a sitting president. (JFK)
  • Assassination of a historically significant American leader. (MLK, Jr.)
  • Assassination of a promising American political leader in his youth (RFK).
  • The first ever resignation of a sitting president (for alleged crimes). (Nixon)
  • The attempted assassination of another sitting president. (Ford)
  • The near-fatal wounding of another sitting president in a failed assassination. (Reagan)
  • I’ll leave out, for brevity; military losses, terrorist attacks, and disgraced political figures.

All these events elicited an emotional response from me that was similar to what you experienced last night. Some events were of such gravity that a deep fear existed that social unrest would overwhelm the nation and push us toward anarchy. Some no doubt considered taking their own lives, asking, “What is there to live for?” Well, there is much to live for as long as hope remains.

I’ve seen things that I thought I would never see. Wonderful things! Think about it for a moment: the LGBT, Latino, African American, and Feminist communities hold a position in our society that they were deprived of for most of my life. Are things perfect? No. But, most of these great things happened after the calamities the nation endured.

Yes, you expect me, a history teacher, to draw parallels to our nation’s past. Well, that’s why we study history. Our Founding Fathers argued vociferously over conflicting viewpoints. But, they produced a wonder of human thought, like how Michelangelo’s “David” is a product of the hand. That statue has lasted for 500 years. Our government isn’t 300 years old yet, but it’ll be young people like you that will push this “experiment in governance” until the end of time. Leaders have agreed to have presidential term limits, checks and balances, state sovereignty, equal and proportional state representation, the Bill of Rights, and the most important of all checks on political power: your vote.

Please look at this recent campaign episode and the election results as symptoms of something ailing our democratic republic. There is plenty of blame to go around. But, this experiment has been 250 years in the making and we are tasked to extend it another 250 years. There are great things awaiting the nation, as long as you exercise the rights you were born with and do your civic duty. Do it for yourself, for your loved ones, and for countless future generations who will someday, thanks to you, be proud of The United States of America.

Love you very much,

Dad

Professional Expression:

I had a plan to discuss the spiritual movement among Native Americans that emboldened them to confront US encroachment in the Midwest but could not forestall ultimate defeat at the battles of Fallen Timbers and Tippecanoe. Then, Election Day occurred, and my plans went out the window.

I had just finished writing a letter to my daughter, hoping to soothe her feelings. Now, I faced the prospect of 30 teenagers who may be similarly distraught, but significantly younger than my daughter. I knew that my students’ youth and my task to teach required a different approach.

I crafted a lesson integrating the disparity of the Stuyvesant election results with the national results. I encouraged them to identify what may have caused the disparity and then look at the system that granted such a surprising result. To show that such divisiveness is NOT new to our nation, I offered a look at the 1860 election that preceded the most divisive (and destructive) period in our national history to date: The Civil War.

My goal was to show that we have and, no doubt, will continue to have episodes like this. The “experiment” begun in 1776 continues nevertheless. My students, along with all citizens, have to be the scientists conducting the experiment.

My closing question of the lesson was “What can you take away from this comparison of the 2016 and 1860 election results?” A rather motivated student replied (paraphrased), “It’s only

four years. Things will change and they will be better if we keep trying as citizens.”

As long as we strive, the hope remains, the nation lives, and the great experiment continues.

Chie Helinski, Japanese teacher

The election result is devastating, depressing, and scary to me, and I am still not fully recovered from the shock.  

But instead of blaming those who voted for Trump, I am willing myself to use this as a chance to think further about what it means to be American and what we can and must do to move on.  People say it’s only four years, but I just hope the environment will not be damaged beyond repair during that time.

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