“He won,” is what I woke up to on the morning of the US election–one of my teammates crying on the bed next to me in her pyjamas, phone resting in her limp hand. Shadows covered her face and her eyes. It took me a moment for the information to compute, to register in my cells that were still half asleep. “He won?” I repeated, already knowing the answer. My voice was monotone. I stared her in the eyes through the heap of hair covering my face. She looked lost, hopeless. I didn’t know what to feel. I laid back down and stared at the ceiling, my stomach churning.
As the leaf-like speckles of light spread across the room through the grated windows, more and more voices came alive from the other rooms. Everyone was waking up to the same news eclipsing their morning routines. Voices began calling parents, more crying occurred, the clicks of fingers dominated computers as they checked to see if it was really true. I got a Facebook message from a friend asking if they could marry into my Canadian citizenship.
Fresh orange juice and Moroccan sugar doughnuts greeted us for breakfast. It seemed too festive for the occasion. But we mourned without silence and faced the facts: Donald Trump, a racist, sexist, xenophobic, climate change-denying, bigoted man, was now the new leader of the United States of America, a place that many of Earthbound students have intimate connections to.
This planted fear in our hearts–fear of the legislations Trump has proposed and the words he has spoken discriminating against and diminishing the rights of Muslims, of the LGBTQ+ , of women. Fear of hate crimes increasing even more across the United States, fear of being targeted abroad, fear of the chaos of revolution, fear of lack of freedom.
Sipping my glass of orange juice with sugar-dusted fingertips, I breathed deeply, imagining I was stretching my roots into the earth. Exhale, I reminded myself.
But we cannot live in fear.
And this is not a time for mourning. It is a time for rising.
We continue to rise for the climate, for refugees, for women, for youth. We continue to rise for people–no matter their gender or sexual preference or skin colour or religion. We continue to rise–to stand up–which is what we came to the COP22 to do.
Later that morning, we found ourselves sitting on the floor of the Green Zone of the COP with Noah Goodwin from Sustain Us, a youth-led non-profit, around a flag of the earth. He spoke passionately, touching on everything we, as a group, are feeling, and all that we stand for.
“It is so important for us to be here as youth and recognise that we need to make our voices heard, that youth are not adequately represented in these governmental spaces, and that we should always fight and take back spaces for us.” We nodded our heads in solemn agreement. “We know that we have to do this because every social movement in history has been led in part by youth who have a desire to see the world change and be created in a way that is founded in empathy, compassion, and love.”
Noah sat around that flag for many hours holding it as a space for prayer and mourning, anger, story sharing, singing, holding silence –whatever people feel that they need in order to process. We felt supported, held.
Throughout the day we had more special moments like these. Everywhere, we saw people putting aside their anger and frustration, their fear and their despair, and coming together in unity and compassion. We saw people rising. Donald Trump may have won the election, but he cannot stop us from standing up. He cannot smoulder the fire we have as climate activists, the internal fire that we all have as human beings.
Written by Elle O’Brien