I’d never seen my classmates cry before. As CNN blared in the background, a crowd huddled around the TV in the lobby of my dormitory. Three girls sitting near me wept, while other students stared into the distance despondently. Outside the window, shouting students ran to and fro, gearing up to protest and organize a rally. The next day, one of my professors canceled class. Another abandoned his lecture notes, instead opening up the period for students to “discuss their feelings.”
No, this wasn’t the aftermath of Sept. 11 or the day following some national tragedy. It was just November 2016, when President Trump won the election. But many members of my generation don’t see much of a difference between that and a national disaster.
When asked about their reaction to the 2016 election that put Trump in the Oval Office, 1 in 4 college students report trauma-level symptoms, according to a new study just published in the peer-reviewed Journal of American College Health. This study claims that a quarter of these millennials reported distress so severe it could even qualify as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and argues intervention is needed to “to mitigate the risk of long-term clinical disorder.”
This report, and others like it, make one thing clear — a culture of self-victimization has thoroughly corrupted my generation. Many of my peers are now willing to appropriate the suffering of true victims to justify their post-election temper tantrums.
The idea that an election alone can traumatize anyone is absurd. Of course, people will react to an outcome they don’t like in the moment, but this study surveyed students two months after the election. A quarter of young people still responded that President Trump’s victory interfered with their personal relationships and caused clinical levels of distress, while others reported that the election left them with “intrusive and disruptive thoughts.”
Yet, this level of distress is totally unsubstantiated. Whether you love Trump or hate him, the reality remains that a college student’s life remains virtually unchanged under his administration. Despite what Democratic Party fearmongers like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., warned, Trump’s tax cuts haven’t killed anyone, and the repeal of net neutrality hasn’t affected my generation’s ability to post endless selfies on Instagram. The workings of Washington have no major impact on the day-to-day life of most college students — even if the party they dislike is in power.
Still, there are plenty of things to dislike about the Trump administration — from foolish tariffs to cruel immigration policies, for instance — but none of that really affects the average college student, let alone traumatizes them. If you put the president’s tweets on mute and focus on the record-low unemployment and booming economic growth that both bode well for our future, it’s hard to see what millennials have to be so distressed about.
Frankly, that so many members of my generation feel PTSD after an election doesn’t just raise concerns about their lack of emotional fortitude — it’s insulting to real victims of trauma. A battered wife, a disabled veteran, or a molested child — their suffering is now lumped in with outraged young people who just don’t like the president. That’s a disgrace and may undermine the seriousness and respect that real victims of PTSD deserve. Is that really what progressive students want?
Such outlandish attitudes are the result of a campus culture that glorifies victimhood. From the first day of orientation, students are divided into demographic boxes through “microaggression” training and lectures on their assumed status in society. Such Oppression Olympics is only surpassed by overt displays of political bias. The “woke” orthodoxy that dominates the campus conversation insists the Republican Party represents racism and fascism — so who wouldn’t be alarmed by a Democratic electoral loss?
The irrational response captured by this latest study isn’t exactly surprising. But if my generation doesn’t get a grip soon, we’ll have something to worry about: College students who report PTSD symptoms at a whim will be unable to handle even the small, everyday struggles of real life.
Brad Polumbo (@Brad_Polumbo) is an assistant editor at Young Voices and a senior at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.