Election Night for Henry

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Dear Diary,

It is election night, and in my dorm and all over campus clusters of students large and small, are glued to anything which can broadcast election results. They anxiously scan multiple news sites while simultaneously watching network television’s constant updates. With each new Democrat win announced, spontaneous cheers of joy erupt as though from one throat. There are many cheers tonight. The boos are rarer, but only because Republican wins are less frequent.

I am not with my many friends tonight, however. I tried to watch the results with them, but when every time you feel a cheer coming on there are boos, or whenever you feel a wave of sadness it is overwhelmed by the exultation around you, it is difficult. In daily life it is sometimes easy to forget fundamental differences of worldview, but it becomes stark clear when politics are involved.

As a very conservative person at campus when even the Republicans vote for the opposing party candidate, there isn’t a place for me tonight. And the results of tomorrow are fairly obvious: I with a sinking heart inside will either face a campus of jubilation, or a campus of anger and bitterness at – to be realistic – much of what I hold most dear; and in classrooms professors will not be able to refrain from sympathizing with students. Or if my values lose in this election, my professors will also not be able to withhold a gleeful camaraderie with their fellow victors – which all their students are, of course. It is, as they say, a lose-lose situation.

Of course, to look on the bright side, the end of the elections will mean an end of the assault of the intelligence, ability, character, values, and motivations of the candidates I support and the people who support them. There will be fewer comments such as, “he’s shooting for the dumb vote” or “she doesn’t have value as a human being.” And while I like to speak up when I hear these things, it is powerfully hard, and perhaps I’m less bold than I thought I was, when I just look down and don’t fight and wonder why no one objects.

Election season is a bad time to disagree with prevailing opinion anywhere – I imagine somewhere there is a misplaced Swattie stuck in an equally conservative school (Brigham Young University? Bob Jones University?) feeling much the same way I do now. I hope he does okay.

I do not begrudge my friends and classmates their jubilation, since after all they hold their values as dearly as I hold mine. It is just a little hard – on this night – not to feel as though all the people I thought of as my friends hate a core part of who I am. It is a silly feeling, but a real one none-the-less.

Nevertheless, as I think about beliefs and emotions and the future, it does appear that being conservative is also about not being too swayed by the present moment; the present election will pass, and things will happen, but life will go on. I need not be too upset or too pleased by the present, since I do not expect or seek radical change; the status quo is not too bad.

With that thought, dear diary, I close; another very ordinary day is before me tomorrow.

Reflectively yours,

O. Henry