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What next?

“I wish it need not happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

With Donald Trump as President, a Republican Congress, and an empty seat in the Supreme Court about to be filled, the question that comes naturally is what next?

But at the end of the day, even if we don’t know the specifics, we know the heart of the answer. Before, Black Lives Matter had Loretta Lynch’s Justice Department producing reports on investigated police departments; now, they will face a federal justice system dead set against them. Before, Native and Indigenous protesters faced only local and state police; now, they will face the full brunt of the brutality that federal law enforcement has to offer. Before, women in Southern states had access to abortion clinics that were partly kept in place by federal law; now, they may face a desert of healthcare caused by anti-abortion legislation. The pattern is clear: where before there might have been some restraint, some protection, or some support on the behalf of the federal government towards vulnerable people, there will now be nothing less than war. We are on our own.

So what next? We have a choice. Like Frodo or any other unwitting kid in any other storybook, we were chosen, but by something a lot less dubious than a wizard, fate, or prophecy. If you are a Carleton student or alumnus reading this, it’s because a group of professionals sat around a table one day and said, “This person is so intelligent, passionate, and hardworking that they deserve this.” There were thousands of other people out there, and they picked us.

We are here for a reason, and it’s up to us to decide what that reason is. We can make this place more than an intellectual playground or four-year job prep. With its relatively protected seclusion, its seasoned instructors, and its strong communities, this place has the potential to become our training ground for the battles that will soon be fought in our courts and churches, our state senates and streets.

So do whatever you have to do to get ready. If you need to get your passports and your paperwork done, do that. If you need to strengthen your ties to your communities, do that. If you need to get an IUD, do that. If you need to fundraise for friends, do that. If you need to ask for help, do that. If you need to shut everything out and completely annihilate your exams, do that, and if instead you need to take time for yourself away from studying, do that. Soon enough, either we will go to battle, or the battle will come to us. In the meantime, all that we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

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