Americans: take the high road or burn America to the ground?
Following the 2016 presidential election, the vitriol is palpable.
The morning and early afternoon after Election Day, top Twitter trends included #NotMyPresident, #StillWithHer, AmeriKKKa [sic], #CalExit, and #TwitterBlackout (Twitter users are changing their profile layouts to plain black images and headers in protest of election results). Friends, co-workers, and public transit passengers in Chicago are openly talking about how “Americans are stupid” and “we live in a country full of terrible people.” I’ve walked by multiple women crying.
I get it: a lot of people hate Trump. I don’t need to recap why because you already know why, unless you’ve been living under a rock. And I’m not going to spend half this post condemning or defending him. But roughly half of our country voted for him. This is the country we live in: “one nation, (under God), indivisible.” It’s reality. It’s happening. As Millennials would say: President-elect Trump is a thing.
It must be noted, of course, that not everyone is reacting quite as dramatically as those mentioned above. But when one looks around and sees all of these extreme reactions, it brings to mind a question, in all seriousness: are we going to war?
The country is divided, and the way I see it, we have two options:
- Try to understand why Trump won. Listen to what conservative and independent voters have to say. Keep an open mind. Learn how to communicate with others in a healthy way that might convince them to think differently. Understand that Trump is a symptom of larger problems that extend beyond racism and misogyny, such as massive wealth inequality and economic policies that many Americans view as insufficient, and empathize with your fellow countrymen who are hurting. Come up with new policy ideas based on collaboration and compromise. Sympathize with people who are experiencing hardships and see how you can help, and help them understand how progressive policies supported by the Democratic party could help.
- Refuse to accept President Trump. Express constant outrage on social media. Insist that everyone who voted for Donald Trump is a xenophobic, misogynistic white supremacist. Call everyone who voted for Donald Trump stupid. Encourage your political representatives to obstruct the government the same way Republicans obstructed President Obama for the last 8 years. Refuse to accept any policies put forth by the GOP, including the approval of any federal budget. Obstruct the government. Fight each other. De-humanize all conservatives, demean their values, other-ize rural Americans, and burn this mother to the ground.
Am I the only person who prefers option 1?
This morning, President Obama said it eloquently:
“We have to remember that we’re all actually one team… we aren’t Democrats first. We aren’t Republicans first. We’re Americans first. We all want what’s best for this country.”
“That’s what the country needs: a sense of unity. A sense of inclusion. A respect for our institutions… and respect for each other.”
I don’t see much respect online, and I don’t see everyone I encounter presenting themselves with dignity or respecting “the other side.” I think the reason everyone has hated the 2016 election so much is the increasing lack of respect for anyone’s point of view. Over the last year, social media contorted into an echo chamber of extreme views, and anyone presenting a moderate or contrary opinion violating the status quo was digitally crucified. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both did a lot of things during the campaign season that angered people, but in my view, the real anger this year came from the lack of humanity shown by voters and their friends and families.
So now the question becomes: will all Americans join their sophisticated peers and take the high road towards unity and mutual understanding, or will the most outspoken and outraged voices drag down the left and damage the integrity of our democracy? Time will tell. But it would be ironic if the vocal Americans calling half of our country stupid, ignorant, and racist turned out to be the ones who bring down one of the most successful governments in history by refusing to listen to the diverse points of view that many claim are so fundamentally important to our nation’s success.
And if Obama’s words aren’t enough to convince you, then it may be worth recalling one of the official slogans of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, “Love Trumps Hate.” Her concession speech reflected this sentiment:
“I believe we are stronger together and we will go forward together. And you should never, ever regret fighting for that. You know, scripture tells us, let us not grow weary of doing good, for in good season we shall reap. My friends, let us have faith in each other, let us not grow weary and lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do.”
My fellow Americans, I implore you: let’s lead by example and let’s prove how indivisible we really are.
About Cody GoughCody Gough is a producer and host at WGN Radio in Chicago. In addition to producing the Brian Noonan Show since 2008, Cody co-hosts both Brian's web-exclusive podcasts and his own lifestyle podcast, Game/Life Balance U.S. Cody also moonlights as a commercial actor, video game enthusiast, and professional social media manager for a global firm.
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