By Stefani Leeper

What do I do, God?

Perspiration built on my brow, the U.S. presidential election rearing its ugly head (I think it answers to the name of 666). Voting for Trump asked for complete and utter embarrassment to befall my nation, and casting a ballot for Clinton offered support to a crook who nonchalantly dismissed devastating events in Benghazi. Supporting either candidate went against the grain of my moral fiber. However, voting for a third-party candidate equated wasted time and energy, or so I was led to believe. Abandoning the election altogether seemed like the best choice, but my conscience pricked my brain; rejecting responsibility made me no better than these potential presidents.

Is voting for Trump really that bad? I asked myself. Congress wouldn’t let him get away with unconstitutional acts. . . . Besides, the chances of him winning are slim to none.

I prayed His will be done, and cast my vote just after exhaling what was probably the Spirit of God.

The results tallied. The unthinkable happened: Donald Trump, the next president of the United States of America. Feeling like the pending wave of persecution to fall on American minorities was all thanks to me, I confided in one of my closest friends.

“I used to look up to you, but now I don’t know what to think. I’m ashamed of you. Did I even know you at all?” Connie Yeung’s tear-filled words echoed in my mind. “I can’t accept a friend who goes against the causes I care for so much. You’re a racist, sexist, homophobic, white supremacist.”

“I’m not any of those things,” I blubbered as sobs racked my body. “And if you are so blinded you can’t see that, then I guess we were never really friends.”

“I guess you’re right. Goodbye, Stefani.”

Porcelain cheeks stained with rivulets of seeming never- ending tears, I couldn’t accept the loss clutching at my heart. I had prayed. I had done my duty. And now, I suffered the worst consequence I could imagine: the loss of a friend.

Yeung, a South African-Chinese, with whom I had been friends for four years, severed our friendship.

I took away a lesson that day, one my favorite author Louisa May Alcott surmises: “Painful as it may be, a significant emotional event can be a catalyst for choosing a direction that serves us—and those around us—more effectively. Look for the learning.”

Easier said than done. Some nights I lay awake, my chest holding a thousand searing coals, my mind contemplating death by overdose, regretting my ballot to the point I no longer thought clearly. Seeking refuge from the depression clouding every crevice of my mind, I turned to constant prayer and self-reflection. Could I really be a racist, sexist, homophobic, white supremacist? For two months I sought a way to erase these definitions from my mental record.

When I heard of an opportunity to join others in Lincoln, Nebraska, in speaking out against the Muslim ban, I made my voice heard. What happened to the religious freedom that fueled the beginnings of this great nation? What about unity in diversity? If anything, Trump’s proposed bans only made these values burn anew in our hearts.

On January 29, I had the privilege to protest the unconstitutional proposal at the Solidarity and Community with Refugees and Immigrants rally while standing on the steps of the Nebraska state capitol building among Muslims, Christians, and people of other faiths and races. For the first time in months I no longer felt alone. Several classmates of mine at Union College also attended the event, or voiced their support for it and shared their thoughts with me.

Junior accounting major Angel Phillips, passionate for minority rights and fair immigration policies, as well as the right to freedom of religion and freedom of speech, said, “Our immigration policy definitely needs to be reformed. My family immigrated from Mexico, and I’m a third-generation American with a chance to live the ‘American Dream.’” Believing other immigrants should have the chance to experience the American Dream, Phillips attended the demonstration. The event hosted seven speakers, but the most influential, said Phillips, was a young woman whose family immigrated during the 1990-91 Gulf War. This woman helped Phillips realize how few deserving individuals get the chance to escape humanitarian crises, most of which are human-inflicted.

“God says to love one another as He loves us. When love dictates your actions, you know you’re doing the right thing,” added classmate and second-year pre-med major Guila Medrano, whose family immigrated to the United States from the Philippines more than ten years ago.

Everyone should be given the chance to flourish and make a better life for themselves. No one’s universal human rights should be actively repressed or ignored. However, as the end of time nears, the human condition will continue to worsen. While oppression, destitution, social isolation, and other tribulations will never be completely alleviated, like the church in Smyrna we shall overcome persecution and temptations with patient endurance and the victory of the Lord. John wrote, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, KJV).

Open discussion and conversation is something we need to practice if we are to advance human rights. These are methods I should have more fully embraced before losing a friend. Communication is essential to our community. We don’t have to agree, but we can listen and learn in love. Medrano agreed with me, concluding, “To respect each other means to listen to and consider her point of view. It means to love and be kind to each other.”

For a moment I embodied what some may deem a racist, sexist, homophobic, white supremacist, but in the Book of Life what I hope is written is loving, caring, kind, thoughtful, considerate, and most importantly forgiven.

And when the sun sets on the horizon of my life, I can join Alcott in saying, “Let my name stand among those who are willing to bear ridicule and reproach for the truth’s sake, and so earn some right to rejoice when the victory is won.”

Stefani Leeper is a senior studying religion and communication with emphases in emerging media and journalism at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska.