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Reaction of a Student from Tunisia: I Understand

I am from Tunisia. I am part of a group that Trump does not want in this country. Yet, I am not offended. I understand — not xenophobia — but Trump’s voters. I invite you to listen to me, in the name of one word: empathy.

I care about minorities and individual liberties. However, I don’t agree with posts like “Michelle Obama should be president, and there is some hope." I don’t agree with these reactions, because they are repetitions of the same mistakes. Again, people are not trying to understand why this happened. I also don’t agree with reactions like “this is not my America."

If you feel this is not your America, maybe it is because you didn’t take the time to know it outside your bubble. This happened because millions of people are tired of establishment politics. This country has witnessed a rising inequality, and the middle class has lost to trade and other policies — from before Obama. Trade has caused diffused benefits and concentrated costs, and people who suffered were not sufficiently compensated. Not to say that Trump is the solution, but he was the revolt figure for millions of people.

In my opinion, this is not just about feminism or minorities, as much as it is about economic insecurity. Of course, there are people who don’t support the right to abortion, LGBTQ rights and my presence in this country. However, I think that these beliefs are —sadly — present and voiced with or without Trump; some states consistently voted for them for decades.

By contrast, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, consistently blue states since Reagan or Bush, did vote against a Democrat for the first time in decades. Those who have liberal views did not drop them; they just voted based on their economic needs and despair of a system that left them behind. I’ve read articles that bring up the following question: would Bernie Sanders have been a better candidate for Democrats? My answer is maybe. In fact, out of the three states I mentioned above, Wisconsin and Michigan voted for Bernie Sanders in the primaries. Even though this is not a rigorous statistical analysis, I think it could serve as food for thought.

Sanders drove passion that Hillary couldn’t drive as strongly, especially that many think she changed her views on some issues only for election purposes. For many people, Sanders inspired trust that Hillary didn’t, and Trump didn’t inspire the distrust that Hillary did. If many of those who voted for Trump are the ones who voted for Sanders (unproven yet), then I think it is fair to believe in motivations beyond xenophobia.

For people who claim that Hillary didn’t make it because she’s a woman, I personally don’t think it is true. She received much support, including from corporations who don’t typically offer the best environment for women. I think that the main issue is not antifeminism, so #ImWithHer divests attention from the root cause. This was not just about empowering little girls, but about empowering people in outrage.

We are at Penn. We are concerned with barriers to female leadership because it is likely to affect our own lives. Don’t get me wrong. I strongly believe in the importance of defending women rights regardless of our situation. However, for men and women who fight to secure a stable job this might not be a priority, and I think we should respect that.

I am not asking you not to be upset, or not to take Trump’s insults lightly. We should all fight for our values, and defy the status quo regardless of where we come from or where we are. I do believe that Trump could be a disastrous outcome for many reasons, including but not limited to his Xenophobia — the reason why I wanted Hillary to win. I also may not be guaranteed a visa renewal in the future, which — hopefully — you would think is not fair, regardless of how you voted.

However, I believe that these elections were about priorities, and I understand that my rights were not one. I invite you to do the same.

LOUJEINE BOUTAR is a junior at Wharton and an international student from Tunis, Tunisia.

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