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Perseverance in the face of the Absurd

A worker bee never questions its duty to produce beeswax, just like a human lung never stops to think about its ability to breathe. What these seemingly unrelated things have in common is that they just do, and exist, without question. The only time these things stop functioning is when they cease to work properly and become less than their ideal form: never questioning in the meantime what is that they are doing.

However, an unavoidable truth of every human's existence is to question our very nature, and wonder what the hell it is that we are doing here. When intentions, reasons and actions don't seem to correlate with our desired outcomes, an existential crisis of our fate is hard to avoid.

Therefore, existentialism is likely to occur—and probably already has—for democratic citizens who feel that the popular vote is unfairly represented and that their voices aren't heard. It’s instinctive to question what was the point for 3.3 million protesters to march for civil, social and environmental rights when our president responds a few days later by essentially reducing everything we fought for through executive orders. It’s demotivating to stand up for reproductive rights when a room full of white men just signed away a woman’s global ability to access abortion and health care. And when years of progress regarding climate change were wiped off, and the progress towards ending discrimination was obliterated by banning Muslims from entering the United States, concerned citizens don't exactly feel represented.

Under this Donald Trump presidency, it’s easy to reside in nihilism and wonder why we bother doing anything at all.

However, these apparent defeats should not lead us to inaction or silence as a response, but the opposition should actually inspire us to persevere towards the Absurdity that our country faces.

Rather than feeling like we are no longer free agents under a democracy “of the people, by the people” we must recognize our strength in numbers.

673 sister marches across the world had a cumulative body of over three million people. All of the “nasty women” that fought for gender equality, the people of color who protested against racial discrimination, the environmental advocates and the LGBTQ+ supporters did not go unheard. All 17,000 marchers in Raleigh, who refused to normalize xenophobia, anti-blackness, or transphobia sent a message to those that didn’t—by marching in the face of injustice. The Women’s March in D.C. was three times the size of Trump’s inauguration crowd, proving the voices of the dissent are louder than the whispers of the complacent.

Our very nature as humans, unlike a worker bee or lungs, is our ability to question and rationalize; to wonder what, after all, is our purpose? Our very nature as democratic citizens is to participate, to speak and to allow our voices to be heard—regardless if the Women’s March felt like it was without immediate or tangible results.

It would be short-sighted to see the Women’s March as meaningless or pointless. Despite rallying against Trump’s future plans on dismantling the Affordable Care Act, overturning Roe vs. Wade, diluting social services, and his actions thus far, we must recognize that more people are marching in the face of Absurdity than willing to accept our dismal fate.

So if we are already expecting the worst, we might as well fight for the possibility of something better. The march didn’t solve world peace, it didn’t prevent Trump from wanting to build a wall, or revoke his stance on Keystone XL, but it did foster solidarity among those who do care about protecting these issues. Donald Trump’s absurdity actually gives us meaning. These protests ignited millions of people to become more politically aware, to seek knowledge and get closer to the essence of their democratic capabilities by participating—questioning as active citizens. The march wasn't held only for Donald Trump to change his stances, but rather, through the means, we established a greater base of knowledge surrounding contested issues, regardless if policies will be made in response. The Women’s March brought together millions who are passionate about ending violence, protecting reproductive rights, hoping for more LGBTQ+ rights, civil rights, environmental justice and disability rights—fostering greater meaning to democracy than a policy ever could.

At the end of the day, hope will always triumph despair and faith will prevail over Absurdity, because if it doesn’t—what is the purpose of our existence?

The nobility of revolting against the Absurd is acting in the face of meaningless.

Our human purpose, unlike the slave driven tendency by a worker bee, or the involuntary breathing of our lungs, is to wonder what our purpose is, and refuse to be a slave to our duties.

Despite America inaugurating a president who discussed women, our bodies and minorities in a crude and demeaning way, our autonomy as citizens is guaranteed as long as we stand up for it. Silence is being complicit, and by not saying anything we inherently give rise to Trump’s actions. Therefore, we must continue to exercise our rights for the sake of it, in order to preserve democracy and our ideal purpose as citizens.

The worker bee doesn't have the privilege to imagine a greater life for itself, but despite our despair, humans have the privilege to think about a higher good that exists outside of reality. The potential for life where Donald Trump changes his mind on climate change, doesn’t cut all of our funding for arts and culture or remove illegal immigrant children out of our country is exactly what fuels us to go out and fight for these greater causes.

Just like Sisyphus in Camus’ classic finds meaning in the Absurdity of pushing a boulder up a mountain only to have it roll to the bottom again, recognizes the futility of his task—but willingly continues, we must keep pushing boulders of injustice to the top of Mt. Washington, despite how many times they get rolled back to the ground.

We can't get anything changed in Congress without changing the way those in power think. We must get into the hearts and minds of those in office, and the Women’s March brought attention to a myriad of issues that might not be fought for so heavily without Donald Trump’s position of power. If we stop questioning, and stop protesting, we aren't just giving rise to a totalitarian government that promises to "restore order to chaos" (or, “Make America Great Again”), we are giving up the fundamental principles that make us human.

Sheridan Wilbur is a Trinity sophomore. Her column runs on alternate Tuesdays.


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