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A Letter To My Students, 3:00 am, Election Day, 2016

It’s election night. I am awake at 3:00. And I am watching her lose.

I am a professor of music theory at a university in Massachusetts – a deep blue state – and I have no qualms that what I teach is far less practical than any of the topics being discussed on any channel that is still broadcasting at this hour.

But I will be at school tomorrow. I will not cancel class. My eyes will be bloodshot and I won’t have slept more than a few hours. And even though we will be studying what can only seem trivial compared to the enormous tectonic plates of politics, it’s important. Even though holding a couple of music classes isn’t going to impact any aspect of this election, it’s important. It’s impossibly important.

Regardless of your politics, this vote is staggering. No matter how you voted, it is not exaggerating to say that these results as they stand are simply staggering. Given the electoral counts right now, a man who wanted to impose a religious test on citizenship is likely to be our next president. A man who looses his temper on Twitter is likely going to have our nuclear codes. A man who belittles and insults women is poised to become the most powerful person in the world.

I am not saying that this is the right or wrong decision – he could potentially be a great president, an admired world leader, an iconoclastic jolt to our ossified bureaucracy – but, given the way this election has run, I’m merely saying these results are momentous.

I will hold class tomorrow because I respect you all too much not to. I can’t call out sick when I think about my strong, smart, motivated, and ambitious female students and how it must feel to move through a world where you will have a president who has produced a myriad of soundbites (enough to fill many new cycles) berating women. It would be so easy to stay in bed tomorrow morning, and I would understand and support if you needed to do that.

But if you wake up and don’t want to concede another victory to what you might view as the voices of bigotry and chauvinism, I will be there in the classroom to support you. If that’s your viewpoint, you can wake up knowing that they’ve won an electoral victory, but that can’t harm your commitment to your future, or to your ambitions, or to your self respect.

I will hold class tomorrow because I am a gay man who grew up closeted in a society that stigmatized my identity. I will hold class tomorrow because I was married to the love of my life after the landmark Supreme Court decision two years ago. I will hold class tomorrow because I might wake up to a government-elect that is committed to repealing all the rights my husband and I have won over the last decade, if not more.

It is important to me to not be made invisible by disappointment, or by what could be viewed as a majority voting against my identity.

Again, I must reiterate that this is not a political message in any way. I am merely saying that tonight is likely to be a difficult night for ,many of you. I simply want to communicate that my way of dealing with this difficulty is to be in the classroom at 9 am. If it helps you, please be in the classroom with me.

I teach because I want tomorrow to be better than today. I teach music because I believe that understanding how we communicate and express ourselves through art is a crucial tool to understanding how to improve the world around us and to not repeat the mistakes of the past.

If I don’t teach tomorrow, I worry that I would be conceding this point. And while music obviously can’t change electoral counts, can’t soften misogyny, and can’t enlighten xenophobia, it can make a world in which these things are a reality a little more livable.

I can’t fault you for skipping tomorrow: tomorrow will be a historic day and tonight is a long, stressful, and fraught night. There will be no penalty if you are not in class.

But even though tonight’s results will likely be read by many in our university’s community (and in communities around the world) as stifling female, queer, multicultural, disabled, and diverse voices, I hope not to contribute to a worse tomorrow.

We will soon know who won November 8th, but we also get to decide who wins our November 9th.


Christopher White