Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Day After the Day After

It's been a while since I've posted anything political, but I’ve had a day to reflect on the election, and, well, here we go:

Unity. I see so many calls for “unity,” mostly from the winning side. Principally, I agree with them. One of the beautiful things about our country is the peaceful transfer of power from one party to another. But unification isn’t made any easier when the call goes something like “you lost, fair and square, now get back in line (or leave the country).” I’ve got a theory on something that might help with the unity thing, though, and that’s empathy. I’m grateful for those of you who have attempted to empathize with the pain and anguish that some of us feel. I would sincerely love, and appreciate, seeing more of that. Saying things like “I see how this has been a rough campaign, I know the winning candidate said and did some awful things, and I can’t imagine how hurtful that must have been, and how hurtful it is now that he will actually be our president,” could go a long way. I truly believe that. Same goes for the losing side: if some of my liberal friends would seek to understand the emotions, concerns, and feelings behind those who voted for the President-elect, it could only help. Honestly, I can’t think of anything that would help unify us more than seeking to understand one another.

To be clear, I’m not talking about anyone changing their beliefs or ideas. I’m not even talking about compromise. Empathy isn’t a meet-in-the-middle sort of thing; it’s a temporary journey to see something from another perspective. Sometimes, sure, that journey can make you want to change your position. But, more often than not--and as quickly as you like--you can return to where you feel comfortable, but hopefully having become more open and understanding in the process.

Stereotypes and generalizations are the enemies of empathy. They obstruct our ability to relate to one another, to acknowledge the humanity in all of us. I’ve seen liberal friends, in their anger and despair, post scathing rebukes of all conservatives or all of those who voted for the President-elect, and I don’t think that’s right. One of my own posts, while not intended to target any specific group, was nevertheless emotionally charged and generalizing, and I’ve since deleted it because it only engendered divisive comments. On the other side, I’ve seen many of my conservative friends post condemnations of “liberal logic” or complaints about how all of their liberal friends have only been posting angry attacks on conservatives. It seems clear that these generalizations--that “all those who voted for the President-elect are racist,” for example, or that “all liberals think in a fundamentally flawed way”--cannot possibly be true. Please, everyone, let’s stop with the generalizing. That is only harmful, and it hurts our ability to empathize.

For my part, I’ve been seeking to understand those who may have voted for our President-elect, and believe it or not, I think I’ve been making some progress.

I can understand, on some level, those who voted for him just because he was the Republican nominee, and Republican ideals still reflected most accurately their own, and they considered a third-party vote wasted. I can understand that.

I can understand, on some level, those who voted for him simply because they did not want HRC in the White House. While I, quite clearly, would not have minded HRC in the White House, I can acknowledge that she was a very flawed candidate, and certainly not my first choice from the Democratic Party. I can understand simply not wanting her in office.

I can understand, on some level, those who voted for him out of fear--fear of an imbalanced Supreme Court, fear of a liberal agenda, fear of losing aspects of their nation that they value highly. I’ve felt that same fear (although probably for different reasons), and can understand it.

I can understand, on some level, those who voted for him out of anger. I acknowledge there is an entire class of people in our country who feel they have been marginalized, who feel their voices have been forgotten, and are absolutely done with it. I can understand wanting to throw the now-proverbial molotov cocktail into our political structure in the hopes that something better will rise from the ashes.

I’m sure there are many other reasons why people voted for the President-elect, reasons I don’t yet understand--and some, perhaps, I never will--but I think, for the most part, it’s worth the effort.

In my ongoing efforts to understand, I haven’t changed my mind much. I still disagree, on many levels, with those who voted for the President-elect. But, again, that’s one of the wonderful thing about empathy: I don’t have to change my views to try to understand someone else’s.

Now let’s look at the other side of things. There are people hurting right now. Many of them are liberals. Many are conservatives who voted for a third-party candidate. Some of them even voted for the President-elect. There is a lot of pain going around, and it does no good to criticize it, marginalize it, or sweep it under the rug. We should talk about it, why it’s there, and figure out how to ease it, make it better.

As for the why: Please acknowledge that racism and misogyny played significant roles in this campaign. Please acknowledge that hurtful things were said and done--by both sides, I’ll absolutely admit it, and corruption still worms its way through our political structure like a cancer--but chiefly, and most publicly, by the President-elect. Acknowledge the fear that those targeted by his language must feel. I mentioned above an entire class of people who feel they have been marginalized, and hopefully now their voices will be heard--but please don’t forget about the many groups of people who were marginalized further (“further” because many of them have been discriminated against for centuries already) by the President-elect’s rhetoric. Please, don’t dismiss your brothers and sisters who are hurting. You may not have similar views, but express your desire to stand up for them. To protect them. To make sure that their voices are heard, too. We can champion our own causes while standing up for the rights of those that oppose us. We can hold to our values while empathizing with the views of those opposite us. That's the unity we’re seeking, I think. Not a unity of ideals, but a oneness of compassion and humanity.

I hope the President-elect proves those of us who are hurt, frightened, and numbed by his election wrong. I hope his presidency is wildly different from his campaign in all of the best ways. But, whatever the President-elect’s actions--even, and especially, if our worst fears come true--it’s up to us to stand up for one another. Both sides of the isle. All religions. All races. All genders. We are the people. We all are the people.

Let’s not forget it.