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Austin Winger: Students' stress-handling is different, not worse

GRAND FORKS--We all have the right to express our feelings I'd like to commend North Dakota State University for its thoughtful support of students who were distraught after the shocking election of Donald Trump. In response to the author of the ...

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GRAND FORKS-We all have the right to express our feelings

I'd like to commend North Dakota State University for its thoughtful support of students who were distraught after the shocking election of Donald Trump. In response to the author of the recent letter headlined "Buck up, get your books out and get to work," I want to point out the fallacies and discourtesies of the writer's message (Page A4, Nov. 17).

First, comparing the 2016 election results to the death of a friend is inappropriate, as these represent two very different scenarios. To the writer, I offer my sincere condolences for the loss of her friend, and I hope that the writer got support from family and friends during that time.

But throughout the writer's description, it seemed she felt good about her ability to "buck up," attend class the day after a funeral and "cry in private." Nonetheless, this inward suppression of emotion is not how everyone copes. Some folks in past generations pride themselves on their "toughness," being able to push through hard times and not display their emotions to others. Occasionally, these folks criticize current generations (usually the Millennials) for their "weakness" and paint them as emotionally soft individuals who cannot handle life's inherent unfairness.

As someone who has studied developmental psychology, I'd argue that current generations are not weak. Rather, they are more open-minded, understanding of diversity and able to self-reflect. At times, this openness manifests as emotionality. I believe this to be healthy and brave, not weak.

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During hard times such as the Great Depression, it's understandable that many people could not think past meeting biological demand (such as putting food on the table). Since then, many of us have had the chance to introspect and to contemplate the higher levels of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, such as self-esteem and self-actualization.

When younger generations grapple with complex issues and openly share their emotions and mental health issues, we should support one another instead of saying "buck up and get over it."

When I awoke on Nov. 9 to find that the United States had elected a racist, misogynist and xenophobic man as the next president, I was in shock. I could not believe that there were 61 million fearful, angry Americans who believed he should be our commander-in-chief.

Meanwhile, 62 million other Americans voted for Hillary Clinton, the most qualified presidential candidate we've had in modern history. To echo "Get rid of the unfair, undemocratic Electoral College" (another Nov. 17 Herald letter), we do need to revamp our voting system so that each individual's vote actually counts.

The Electoral College has strayed far from its original purpose. And the United States should consider a system closer to a pure democracy, where the popular vote matters.

During the past week, I have had trouble focusing on the joy of finishing my doctoral degree, as I am concerned about the welfare of our nation and our world after Inauguration Day. Nor are the NDSU students and I the only ones troubled by this election. Leaders and citizens around the world are scared and uncertain as to how a Trump presidency will affect international relations and the global economy.

Again, we all have the right to express our feelings. The First Amendment grants us the right to freedom of speech - and I commend those who are peacefully protesting the election results around several major cities in our nation.

I also commend the actions of NDSU in understanding its students and supporting their mental health during these difficult and turbulent times.

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Turnabout is fair play, and I say shame on the letter-writer for marginalizing the feelings of NDSU students and for telling them how they should cope. More than ever, we must unite and support one another, as our country deals with its apparent division and turmoil.

Winger is a graduate student in instructional design and technology in the Department of Teaching and Learning at UND.

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