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No election has ever mattered more

By URVASHI BANERJEA
November 08, 2020 18:13 IST
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Even though we may have voted a President out of office, that does not mean those who loyally supported him will be silenced.
Nor should they be.
While we may not agree with our neighbour's opinions, we can never stop fighting for their right to voice them, asserts Urvashi Banerjea.

IMAGE: New Yorkers in the city's Central Park react as the media announces that Democratic candidate Joe Biden has won the 2020 presidential election, November 7, 2020. Photograph: Caitlin Ochs/Reuters

Exhausted and emotionally drained, the election fatigue starts to set in around hour 46 of the post-election day process.

Over these last four years, I've had plenty of practice adopting modern-day survival mechanisms in order to stay sane in the 24-hour news cycle.

It has become second nature to temper innate emotions into learned adaptive behaviors -- resentment into detachment and anger into resigned acceptance.

These modern-day tactics have prepared me for the agonizing wait that transpired over the past 5 days of what seemed to be at the time, interminable vote counting accompanied by a running commentary from the media, the continuous narration of a story that never seemed to end.

 

How did we get here? After four years of toxic rhetoric and divisive politics, it was time for an election so consequential, that it would determine the character of the nation for generations to come.

The politics of the past four years have done more to change the cultural, political and social landscape of the American culture than in any other time period in my lifetime.

Sentiments that should never even be expressed, let alone spoken aloud, have been voiced.

Movements that have absolutely no place in a modern and educated world, have resurged into existence.

Leaders who have no place being in positions of power, have been leading.

No election has ever mattered more.

As an Indian-American living in the United States for most of my adult life, I had a very idyllic view of what it meant to be an American Citizen.

I often think of the Latin phrase that has adorned our National Seal since 1776 to describe the American motto: E Pluribus Unum -- Out of Many, One.

At the time, I could think of no greater phrase to encapsulate the American experience. Out of many nationalities, one nation. Out of many cultures, one shared experience. Out of many origin stories, one destination.

America to me, was the culmination of many seemingly disparate identities into one collective, colorful patchwork of culture.

This patchwork has slowly disintegrated as voices touting the danger of 'the other' became amplified and xenophobic beliefs became mainstream.

Minority groups in the United States, once considered to be voting blocs, have disbanded and splintered across Political ideologies as the shared immigrant experience becomes increasingly fragmented.

I battled with these thoughts leading up to the election and felt the desperation surge through me, course through my veins and into my fingers as I penciled in my vote for the President of the United States.

Sitting here now, with a new President-elect of the United States, I can't help but reflect on these past 5 days.

IMAGE: A supporter of the Biden-Harris ticket holds balloons with the faces of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as she celebrates in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden's home state, November 7, 2020. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

My election experience was largely influenced by a growing chorus of voices from Millennial voters. I am part of the generation that, after having a decade of voting eligibility under our belts, now fully believes in their own power.

Young voter turnout numbers have surpassed 2016 records in early voting by large margins. This larger cultural shift can be felt in every aspect of our lives.

Perhaps the zeitgeist of Millennials, the utilisation of social media as comedic relief perfectly encapsulates the spirit of our generation.

This symbolic victory slowly gaining momentum as we, as a nation, collectively held our breaths and watched the process of history being made.

Social media provided a desperately needed reprieve with memes, tweets, and TikToks about the current state of affairs.

In our shared anxiety, we found relief as we realised that young voters across the country were not so different after all! We shared in each other's moments of joy, as well as pain.

Even that being said, I realize that my perspective is limited to my social circle and I am not fully exposed to the full spectrum of thoughts and opinions regarding the election.

However, the beauty of living in a smart phone era enables you to expose yourself to voices different from your own, no matter what is being algorithmically determined for you.

In my opinion, this is the most powerful tool at our disposal as we begin to think about what these next four years will bring.

Even though we may have voted a President out of office, that does not mean those who loyally supported him will be silenced. Nor should they be.

While we may not agree with our neighbour's opinions, we can never stop fighting for their right to voice them.

So now we must move forward, although as a nation divided, with our cacophony of voices into a future where it will no longer matter which is the loudest, but instead the harmony across all the voices.

A future where we will once again set an example as a nation that looks to heal divides and build bridges; a nation that looks at diversity as our greatest strength, not weakness; a nation that has created 'Out of Many, One'.

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