Red, white and blue
Bieneke Bron (Veterinary Medicine, 2011) is a PhD candidate in Comparitive Biomedical Sciences at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.
Red, white and blue: the colours of many flags, among them the Dutch tricolour and the American Star-Spangled Banner. In 2016, red and blue represented something else in the United States; blue was for Democrat and red for Republican.
Since the autumn of 2012 I have lived in Madison, a liberal city in the mid-western state of Wisconsin. As a PhD candidate in an international lab at a large research university I spend most of my time in a bubble of smart people who accept each other in every colour. We talk science, I talk plague and others talk Zika virus. All this talk changed a little after July, because there were the what-if-he-or-she-gets-elected scenarios to discuss.
there were the what-if-he-or-she-gets-elected scenarios to discuss.
Shortly before Election Day I drove down county highway 12 and the Trump-Pence signs were overwhelming. I had not seen any Trump signs throughout the spring. In my liberal city bubble I simply hadn’t noticed the strong support for Trump in the countryside. It surprised me that the signs made me feel unwelcome; I had tried not to care about the election and ignore the hateful and generalising words that were thrown around during the debates.
The 2012 experience had taught me not get involved with or care about the 2016 election, because you cannot vote and it is nerve wracking and frustrating to care. Of course I caved in on Election Day. It was impossible not to feel the thrill: I felt that Hillary was going to win; I was excited for women’s rights, living wages and the first female U.S. president! Around 8PM that night, Florida seemed to go with Trump and I told my friends: “You are #$%^&.” During the night, the U.S. map gradually turned red, and worst of all Wisconsin turned red instead of blue! Trump had won ‘our’ state by less than 1% of the votes. I was not supposed to care, but Madison’s heart was breaking, and the people who had been concerned about the ‘fear-rhetoric’ during the election were scared. A few days later the university sent the international students an email, assuring us that we are safe and valued. They reminded us of all the organisations that can help dealing with mental struggles, hate and bias. My Muslim colleague posted pictures of the notes of support they had received at their mosque, showing us that it made a positive difference.
...you cannot vote and it is nerve wracking and frustrating to care.
The United States of America is a large country, well-developed, safe and a democracy. It remains tough to believe that more people voted for the person who lost the election than for the winner. A recount has now started in Wisconsin. Will it make a difference? I don’t know. But my level-headed Dutch temperament is getting a little fed up with what-if discussions and projections. Time to get to work and make the world a better place. I am convinced we can all make a difference, but as Jane Goodall said: we just need to decide what kind of difference we want to make.