It’s an historic day. The day Trump is official. Here we are…on the precipice…waiting to see what comes next.
I’ll be honest, I’m not super vocal about politics these days. That’s not to say I’m not politically-minded. I am. I have strong opinions on a variety of topics that I’ve done some pretty thorough research on. I just don’t speak openly about them much anymore. I lean pretty liberal on social issues, and pretty conservative on fiscal issues, and frankly, I didn’t vote for either of the big two this time around, though I don’t fault anyone who did.
I grew up around politics. Parades and fundraisers…dinners and rallies…raffle tickets and seats at speaking events. I knew how the behind-the-scenes worked. I had many heated debates in college, during most of which I took the unpopular view, but none of which impacted who I went out for a drink with at the end of the night.
We rarely changed each others’ minds during those debates, but we were open to understanding one another and where those viewpoints came from. At the very least, it was an opportunity to step out of our comfort zones and consider the possibility that our established worldviews might not be the whole picture…that someone else looking at it from a different angle could disagree without either party being inherently wrong.
It pains my inner idealist that it’s not like that anymore. I think the silencing of dissenters has done more to divide this country in recent years than the dissenting opinions ever could have on their own. Between that and the media’s rush to beat the internet amateurs by broadcasting news before it’s been verified as accurate, we’ve created a very volatile situation.
I was recently surprised to be ‘unfriended’ on Facebook for asking someone to check the validity of their statements before writing such hurtful things about a large portion of the population (or anyone at all, really)…especially since a number of their family and friends were represented in that group. I just wanted them to stop and think before they posted something so blatantly inflammatory. I was promptly and unceremoniously deleted from their life, with an assertion that they have a right to say what they want. And while that is, without a doubt, the truth, it is not their right to do so without response or disagreement. Just because you can spew hate and vitriol, doesn’t mean you should…especially not while simultaneously preaching about tolerance and diversity.
Diversity of opinion is equally as important as other forms of diversity. How can we expect positive growth and change by dismissing hundreds of thousands of peoples’ opinions as flatly invalid? Not in my lifetime have I seen the population so willing to burn their relationships to the ground over politics.
The more socially concerning piece of this puzzle is peoples’ willingness to dismissively drop a label on those who disagree with them, while subsequently claiming the moral high ground. The reality of the situation is that none of us are one issue voters. It’s complicated, and it’s extremely unlikely that you would ever agree with all of a candidate’s positions. Everyone has a complex array of beliefs based on their life experiences, and votes with whichever party or candidate they align most closely with. No one issue defines any of us. And the false dichotomies are tearing us apart. Consider, for a moment, how absurd the following statements are:
- If you voted for Hillary Clinton, you support killing babies.
- If you voted for Bernie Sanders, you want the United States on the road to Socialism.
- If you voted for Gary Johnson, you’re a hippie and a stoner.
- If you voted for Donald Trump, you’re a xenophobic, misogynistic, racist, bigot.
What about these?
- If you voted for Hillary Clinton, you support a woman’s right to choose, affordable healthcare, and social diversity.
- If you voted for Bernie Sanders, you support a living wage, affordable education for future generations, and fair access to all social services.
- If you voted for Gary Johnson, you support communities and families being able to make informed decisions about their circumstances without government intervention, lower income taxes, and charitable giving.
- If you voted for Donald Trump, you support economic growth, family values, and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Sounds a little different, right? You can’t know where someone’s decisions are coming from if you shut them down without bothering to listen. But it seems freedom of speech is only for those who agree with popular opinion in recent years. There have been threats made, careers destroyed, and families divided over popular opinion. If you can’t make the effort to hear the other side and be open to understanding it, how do you expect to stay informed? What happens if popular opinion shifts and you’re on the wrong side of it? Would it be fair to expect you to change your views, or risk destroying your livelihood and relationships?
No, it wouldnt. And incidentally, that very lack of willingness to hear and understand is exactly how we ended up with half the population shocked and blindsided with Trump’s win in the first place. And here we are, presenting a divided front to the world…marginalizing each other and looking like bickering children to countries that are happy to see us saving them the trouble of dealing with us, by tearing ourselves apart from the inside.
It makes me tired…and disappointed. We’re better than our actions right now. The gloating isn’t productive. The accusations and rioting aren’t productive. That whole “united we stand, divided we fall” thing? That’s legit. If we can’t get it together, there won’t be much left to argue about when this is all over.
That’s not to say you have to agree. You don’t. Protest if it’s in your heart to do so…peacefully. Share your views instead of your anger. Listen to what your opponents have to say. In case you haven’t noticed, telling someone they’re morally reprehensible doesn’t make them very open to your views either. Lead with positive intent…know that the vast majority of the people in this country are doing the very best they know how and mean you no harm. Understand that we have all dealt with hardships that have shaped our view of the world and that it takes time to influence change. Know that we’re in this together. And we might just surprise ourselves if we open our hearts and minds to each other.
And if the next few years don’t go the way you hoped they would, remember that our government was thoughtfully designed to allow for a seamless change in leadership in another four years. No wars or bloody regime changes necessary. Look at the rest of the world and know that this is no small blessing, and that it required an immense amount of foresight on behalf of our founding fathers.
Be kind. Maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Maybe you’ll spend the next few years working toward something that aligns better with your beliefs. But either way, let’s not tear ourselves apart to prove each other wrong. We’ll get through this together, and we’ll be better for it.