Last night, we elected a new President of the United States. It is not who we hoped for.
If there is one thing that this election did, was shattered the illusion that I understood half of the people that live in this Republic of ours. We can quibble about the popular vote vs. the electoral vote, but it’s very nearly split right down the middle. If you look at a map of the counties, you can easily see where higher population centers are the ones colored blue, and the more sparsely populated areas are colored red. It has been this way for decades, and I believe this split offers an idea as to why this election fell the way it did.
One of my greatest passions is studying film — immersing myself in someone else’s shoes for a hundred minutes and coming out the other side with a wider experience and more empathy for another viewpoint. I have also been drawn to cities where there is more culture, more diversity, more people living their weird lives, showing me things I never knew before, and opening my eyes to other experiences, and other personal truths. I’m not a perfect human, by any stretch of the imagination, but I try to be inclusive and accepting of as much as I can. If they’re not hurting someone else, what business of mine is it how they live their life? And perhaps they have something to teach me about how I live my own. I try to improve myself, bit by bit. I have some brain chemistry issues that make it harder than it should be sometimes, but learning to compensate for that is just part of being human. Everyone has their own personal hurdles to overcome.
I saw a lot of Democrat friends last night railing at third-party voters, at Trump voters, blaming Bernie Sanders, blaming Clinton for suppressing Sanders in the primaries, blaming… whoever they can think of. It may make you feel better for a few minutes, but being angry and divisive is not going to change minds. We, as Americans — each and every one of us — have only ourselves to blame. While we may be more inclusive and understanding in the cities, the wide swaths of rural America just shouted that they don’t share our degree of acceptance, our values of inclusivity and progress. But it is important to remember that these views do not come from a vacuum. People in the cities get reminded all day every day that humanity is diverse and wondrous, and that people that look different, live different, love different — they are no threat to my existence, my ideals, my values. As long as you’re not hurting people, we can all get along. In fact, we need to get along, to support each other, to pool our resources (taxes!) to pay for services that the lowest earners would never be able to provide for on their own, to care for each other, even if in small, seemingly superficial ways.
That leads me to wonder if this is mainly a problem of education. That people feel not only left behind by new technology, but by new views. They are not exposed to diversity early enough in life and form life-long assumptions about how different equals “bad”. They may think everyone has the exact same opportunities afforded to them. They don’t like taxes because “the government” will just spend it on helping people they think don’t deserve it, just because they didn’t need it. Many also lack exposure to diversity of thought, both in their schooling and in their choice of news sources (c.f. Fox News, Breitbart, etc.). I don’t know how else to explain how half of the country could excuse the racist, sexist, fill-in-the-blank-phobic behavior of the “strongman” braggart of a Republican that we just elected. He obviously made their voices felt heard in a way that the relatively centrist Democrat candidate did not. The question is, why did he make them feel heard?
The important thing to remember is that while people are lashing out, whether overtly, vilifying and threatening violence like we saw at the Trump rallies, or more quietly, like in electing someone they feel speaks for them despite proving over and over that he is unfit for the presidency — these people are lashing out because they are hurt. Because they don’t feel listened to. Because they don’t know where to turn. Remember that these are human beings, just like you, and that their circumstances have led them to this point, just like yours have led you here. It may be difficult, but I encourage you to listen to them, and try to understand where they are coming from. Compassion and empathy is the way forward, to understand and meet the needs of the half of this country that is obviously going unassuaged.
As to the future, I know that things will get better. If you feel as strongly as I do about this, volunteer for local programs that you want to encourage. Volunteer to help campaign for our representatives (local and national) in two years, for the mid-term elections. I know both of you are heading toward becoming great artists — express your empathy and care in your work. Keep being the fine young people I know you to be. Don’t despair. We can get through this, together.