It's hard to say what happened on Nov. 8. Despite countless predictions that he'd never nab the White House, Donald Trump is the President of the United States, leaving millions of Americans in a state of melancholic confusion. The race was incredibly close, but ultimately, Trump won the majority vote. For Clinton supporters and Trump critics, morale in the wake of the election is decidedly low.
In times like these, there's one crucial point to remember: America has seen days like this before. Over the decades (and the centuries, really), this country has confronted terrible situations and devastating heartbreak, catastrophic economic downturns, and the loss of countless beloved public figures during the times we needed them most. These events that left more than a few citizens disenfranchised, but still: America persevered through those times and came out stronger. In a way, it's the one thing we can hold close to while we're feeling the devastation and apprehension of the election results.
Yes, Donald Trump's victory might feel like a devastating blow — and it's certainly indicative of more insidious problems of our nation. However, no matter what happened at the polls, or tomorrow, or over the next four years, remember: The United States has slogged through the shit before and, in small and large ways, found the strength to clean of its boots and keep moving forward.
1. The American Civil War
From 1861 to 1865, the Union faced the Confederacy in a brutal civil war that remains the bloodiest in U.S. history. Sparked by the Confederacy's motivation to uphold the abuses of slavery, the Civil War left approximately 750,000 soldiers dead, a number that tops American military deaths in both World Wars combined. It was brutal, but in the end the Confederacy fell apart and slavery was abolished, ultimately leading to the granting of limited civil rights to freed slaves. It wasn't perfect, but it was a step forward for the United States.
2. The Great Depression
There's no debating the fact that the Great Depression was America's worst economic disaster: Families were impoverished and uprooted from their homes, farmers were forced off their lands, and unemployment was at an all-time high. However, there were also tremendously positive outcomes to this dark time in American history, the most significant of which was the New Deal. Roosevelt's plan created a safety net for the poor, and marked the beginning of maximum hours, minimum wage, and Social Security. In a sense, the outcome of the Great Depression was one of hope instead of sorrow.
2. The Attack On Pearl Harbor
On Dec. 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise military attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor. The attack killed 2,403 Americans and wounded 1,178, and also served as the impetus for America's entry into World War II. Forcing a military hand might not seem like a positive outcome to such a tragedy, but what Pearl Harbor also did was unite the country in the face of disaster, prompting citizens to unite for the war effort and ultimately defeat the fascism and militarism that started it all.
3. The Assassination Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It's nearly impossible to find a positive angle on a loss of life, especially a life and influence as extraordinary as Dr. Martin Luther King's. However, after he was assassinated in 1968, it was immediately clear that his death wouldn't be in vain. Remembering his iconic "I Have A Dream" speech, the country began to shift in response to is moral example and martyrdom, finally recognizing that this nation rests on the foundations of the moral and social equality of humans.
Yes, it was almost unreasonably embarrassing for America's citizens to learn that the person who held the highest office in the land was actually a venial crook. However, after Watergate, Washington found itself in crisis, especially as the scandal revealed many abuses of power within the Nixon administration. Nixon was forced to resign, proving that our legal and constitutional systems worked, ultimately leading the American people to elect a leader that was as honest and upright as Nixon was crooked: Gerald Ford.
5. The Attacks On 9/11
On Sept. 11, 2001, four coordinated terrorist attacks were carried out against the United States. A total of 2,996 people were killed, and over 6,000 more were injured. Though the Bush administration's response to the attacks divided the nation further, one bright glimmer of hope was found in the people of New York City. On that day and in the weeks after the attacks, Americans nationwide looked to New Yorkers for guidance — after all, they were the largest population of people most directly effected by the attacks. That day New Yorkers served as an incredible example for a polarized nation, simply by taking care of each other in a time of extreme crisis.
6. The Deaths Of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, & Eric Garner
Again, it's difficult to see a positive outcome in the deaths of innocent people. However, when Trayvon Martin was killed and George Zimmerman was acquitted of his murder, it sparked a conversation. When Mike Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, MO, and Eric Garner was suffocated by police in New York City, that spark turned into a flame. These tragic deaths were the impetus of the Black Lives Matter movement, a show of organized solidarity and push for social justice. Black Lives Matter got Americans talking about race and inequality in ways they never had before, causing many to contemplate the powers and privileges afforded to them simply because of the color of their skin.
In truth, there's no way to know what could happen in the United States with a president like Donald Trump at the help. His racism, xenophobia, and misogyny are undoubtedly terrifying, and his presence in the White House will leave many with a list of unanswered questions with potentially disturbing answers. However, America has been scared and lost before — and after we're done reeling from our darkest, most embarrassing moments, Americans have ultimately pushed back in surprising ways. Hopefully, it's only a matter of time before the positive fruits of this moment in history begin to reveal themselves.
Images: Wikimedia Commons