The day after last year’s Presidential election I wrote this blog post. But I didn’t share it. I didn’t share it then because I had friends from all over the political spectrum who were reeling from a Donald Trump election that caught almost everyone by surprise, threw many people off balance, and both thrilled and upset people I care deeply about.
I didn’t want to add to the trauma and worry so many were feeling at that time. Then, in the way of all things, I forgot all about these thoughts until I found this entry in my notebook this morning.
At first I wasn’t going to share it even now, it’s been 10 months since the election after all, but I changed my mind because the message is more badly needed today than it was even then.
Since President Trump was elected he’s lived up to and down to expectations and promises both. It all depends on where you stand to determine which of those you believe is the most accurate.
I’ve watched those on opposing political sides dig into their own narrow perspectives this past year more than they did before the election. Getting so entrenched in their own views that they have actively called for violence against those who don’t share them, and justifying their violence because they’re RIGHT in their own eyes and being RIGHT gives them license to…what? Violate someone else’s rights?
No, I don’t believe that. Not at all. So I’m sharing this little trip back into recent history and my thoughts on the decision America made last year. I didn’t vote for either of the major party candidates. Neither of them convinced me they were capable of doing the job they wanted me to hire them for. But my lack of support for the powers that be does not absolve me of the responsibility to be a better citizen, an engaged neighbor, and a decent human being to those who I both agree and disagree with.
I’m trying to live up to that responsibility. But let me tell you, it’s difficult. I’m what most people would call a “moderate” politically. That means both sides seem to think that I’m a political pansy because I don’t get mad enough for them on their personal sociopolitical hobby horses. I say things like “be kind” and “listen” then I get chewed out by Liberals and Conservatives alike because I don’t believe their particular brand of dogma.
I question, I read opposing views, I try to see the big picture and the individual pieces that create it. And it’s getting harder and harder, as the gulf between the two views widens, to maintain hope for balance.
My apologies to Mr. Poe for borrowing his idea, but I’m very afraid that the pendulum swing of our politics is pushing us into a pit that will destroy us.
We don’t have the luxury of proclaiming “not MY problem”, “not MY President”, “not MY America”. Like it or not, this is OUR America and the blame for our division lies at all of our feet.
In order to fix this divide we must change.
November 9, 2016
Shock doesn’t really cover what I’m currently feeling.
First of all, I’m not all that shocked. Not in a traditional sense of the word. I’m NOT surprised that Donald Trump won. I’ve spoken with and listened to a large number of people who have supported him. They aren’t who the media has portrayed them to be. I haven’t spoken to any Trump supporter who I would classify as a racist, a bigot, or a bully. I know those kind of sad individuals are out there, but they aren’t the vast majority of voters.
And it’s that majority, the ones who are good, inclusive, kind people who voted yesterday for a man that few of them like on a personal level.
It’s simple, and it will take just one easy exercise to explain it.
Answer this question: How did you feel when you woke up this morning?
Did you feel disheartened? Did the discouragement of knowing your voice didn’t make a big enough difference make you sick? Did you watch the late news, or maybe the early news and think, “How did we end up here? With so many disenfranchised people in America?”
If you did, good. It makes this easy.
That’s how Donald Trump supporters have felt for years, probably decades. They have woken up under the burden of loss, poverty, and disenfranchisement from their government for so long that they’d lost hope that it would ever change. They’ve felt ignored, used up and discarded by a political system that serves its own needs, not theirs.
And it wasn’t just some media inspired description of a redneck voter who has felt this way. Because this wasn’t a party line split. This was a flood of voters; Republican, Democrat, Independent, and unaffiliated who painted America red yesterday. These are the union laborers who have been watching their jobs and income slowly leaving America for the past thirty years. Organized labor doesn’t do any good if the jobs are gone. These are the factory workers who just found out last month that their healthcare premiums DOUBLED this past year because of the Affordable Care Act regulations. Health insurance doesn’t do you any good if you can’t afford your co-pay or food for your family because the premium for your coverage was over a quarter or more of your monthly income. These are the small business owners who have felt the vampiric effect of regulation and taxation that has been slowly bleeding them dry for too long. These are Americans who have felt Uncle Sam picking their pockets every time they turn around to fight wars they don’t understand and fund programs that they know don’t work.
And just how do they know they don’t work? Because many of them ARE the poor that those programs are supposed to be helping. But they don’t feel helped. They feel belittled, discouraged, and ignored.
Yesterday, they felt sick and tired of it. Yesterday they said “no” to business as usual, and “no” to our government, by electing someone who they believe is NOT one of the political insiders who have been eroding their faith in America for years.
So, let’s avoid something today and every day for the next few years. Let’s avoid the “I’m ashamed of America” commentary. Let’s quit with the “America, you suck” claims. Why? Because Donald Trump didn’t elect himself, and there’s a reason the American people just voted for a man who appears to thrive on being seen as the biggest jackass who ever stood on a stage to bray. If we try to ignore them, shame them, or bully them again, the divide in our nation is just going to get worse.
Let’s try something different instead. Take the emotion you feel today and put it to good use. Don’t sit back on your self-righteousness and claim that this election has nothing to do with you. That’s delusional thinking. Stop and consider instead. When was the last time you listened to the “other” side? When was the last time you took the fears, logic, and life experiences of your political “enemy” into consideration?
Because this is the honest truth: It’s our reactionary politics that have landed us in this position. It’s the violent swings from red to blue and back again that have made it easy to ignore the very real struggles and suffering of our fellow citizens. We’ve painted a false dichotomy between people who are responsible vs people who care. It’s not even a comparison that makes sense. We’re capable of both.
No one gets to wash their hands of this election, no matter who you voted for. The reason we’re here, with a man whose words and actions have offended me on the deepest possible level as our president-elect, is because we’ve been finger-pointing, condemning, and pushing our own agendas for too long.
We’ve got to start listening to each other instead of yelling at each other. We’ve got to stop the momentum of this pendulum of hatred for someone else’s perspective or we’re going to see it destroy us. This is the danger of a democracy and why our founders organized a republic instead. If the majority rules the decisions, too many people are left with no voice. The minority voice matters. But it’s only heard if we ALL start listening. Listening to hard things, challenging our own perceptions, refusing to make snap judgments, actually working to understand someone else instead of reducing them to a caricature of what we think they believe.
And then we’ve got to start serving. We keep demanding what we want, but too few people are laboring to give what we need. Generosity is easy when it’s someone else’s money that’s being spent. Compassion is simple when it’s for someone you already identify with. Integrity requires no effort if we don’t make any commitments to hold ourselves to.
With every insult, each outrage, and angry diatribe we cut off conversations and further erode our capacity to communicate. We begin to see one another as “other”, “them”, or “enemy”.
With our hatred for one another we swing that razor sharp pendulum back and forth and we are foolish to believe that such antagonism isn’t going to further divide us in two.
Be passionate. Be courageous. Be steadfast in your beliefs. And above all, be kind.