Read This If You’re Struggling To Feel Patriotic In Light Of The 2016 Election

Aaron Burden
Aaron Burden

You know those stairs in your house or workplace that you climb up every day, multiple times a day? The ones where you know exactly how many steps it takes to get to the top and you could do it in your sleep without missing a beat? One day you’re minding your own business, taking the steps you always do, and suddenly you trip up those same stairs. You look around hoping no one saw the fumble, but then when you reach your destination you realize your leg has a cut from the incident and you’re bleeding. Those familiar stairs betrayed your trust and didn’t work like they did the thousands of times before.

Perhaps that’s a long, intense analogy, but that’s how I feel about the results of the election this year. America has been those stairs that we have gotten so used to over years and years, and we thought we knew how they would behave on election night. Business as usual, each step in its place. But then they tripped us. And it hurt. And we hoped and wished that no one saw, but of course everyone did. And we’re bleeding for multiple reasons.

Before every Republican, Hillary-hating person who is ready to tar and feather me already jumps down my throat, let me give you a little background. I am registered as Independent, and actual voted Republican in the 2012 election. Yes, for Mitt Romney. I live in Iowa and went to the Democratic Jefferson-Jackson Dinner that was held here back in the spring. As a woman who was raised Republican, I thought it couldn’t hurt to learn a bit more about what the other side had to say. I listened to the candidates and disagreed with almost every point they made, thus reaffirming my Republican beliefs. Then Trump became the clear frontrunner.

It was around this time that I took a job in Michigan to work on Mackinac Island for 5 months. I had no television and very limited internet for the duration, and to say that it was a protected bubble would be an understatement. I returned to civilization knowing that things had gotten bad while I was away, although I didn’t know how bad at the time. I watched the first presidential debate while shaking my head and rolling my eyes in disbelief. This was the man that half of America wanted to lead our country? How can we focus on his policies when he’s openly bullying his opponent? The words out of his mouth were incredible. Not in a positive way.

I could say so much more about the way things transpired, but that would be pointless. Here we are, the day after the election, and Donald Trump is our president elect. Those words are frightening to so many people, including myself. Trump supporters, I don’t want to hear anything from you about how you “don’t understand why people are scared,” and how “Trump is working for all people.”

Despite what you personally believe or chose to ignore about every racist, sexist, bigoted thing that Trump has said, that doesn’t change how this man has made so many people feel.

You don’t have the right to dictate how people feel. I have multiple LGBTQ and POC friends posting on social media about being afraid and scared and crying about their rights and safety. One of my best friends messaged me simply saying “I hope I can still get married someday.” I have friends who have been victims of sexual assault saying that they feel abandoned and left behind. This is not ok. No one should feel unsafe in the place that they call home.

I never thought I would shed tears over an election, but it has happened. Multiple times. I cried as results came in. I cried reading the posts of friends and colleagues worried about their futures. I cried watching Hillary’s concession speech. And I cannot comprehend how anyone, Republican or Democrat or otherwise, can feel confident knowing that this is the type of country we live in.

I voted for Hillary Clinton, and I am very proud of that fact. And not because it’s historic that she was the first woman on the ballot. I’m proud because this is me voting as a respectable, caring, responsible human being that believes all men and women are created equal. Despite whatever their religious beliefs, sexual preferences, gender or the color of their skin happen to be. You can tell me whatever you want about how she’s a lying, cheating, killing, scum of the earth human being. You can bash every political action she has accomplished or rather not accomplished over her last 30 years as a politician. You can smear her family name; blame Bill for his adultery, and the way she responded. Hell, bring up the email scandal for the millionth time. Guess what? None of that is more important than how we speak to and treat each other every day. A fact that it appears both Donald Trump and his supporters seem to have forgotten.

This is not me living in ignorance as the stereotypical uneducated hippie, living off the government Democrat. If I had my way, Hillary would not have been my first choice. Let’s recall, I lean Republican when it comes to a lot of issues especially economically. But unfortunately for the first time in most of people’s lives, the issues were not at the forefront of the presidential race. Does Donald have a plan of how to make America Great Again? Time will tell. Until then, there needs to be some understanding from both parties.

The amount of hatred that has been spread by both sides is deplorable.

Yes, both sides are adding to this terrible divide that we never realized ran so deeply within our country. We need to do better.

To Trump supporters; please understand that Hillary supporters need some time to process the fact that your actions and voting decisions have encouraged and elected a man who has actively offended, hurt, and quite frankly, frightened multiple groups of people. People that you live and work with, that you call friends, family and fellow American citizens. You may disagree, not understand, or refuse to understand, but this is the reality for so many people. One does not simply forgive and forget these things overnight, and step one has to be accepting this fact.

On the opposite end, to Hillary supporters; please understand that backlash and stereotyping Trump supporters as racists or homophobic or bigots etc is neither true nor helpful to anyone. There are many people who I know that support this man and I do not for a minute believe that they are awful, condemnable citizens. Do I disagree with where they placed their support? 100% yes. Does that mean we should shun them and push the divide of our country farther and farther apart? 100% no. Cliché as it may be, we need to come together more than ever and work harder for the changes we want and need to see. We can cry and grieve and mourn and be more frustrated than ever before. Then wipe up the tears, focus those intentions and look forward.

Friday night I am singing the national anthem at hockey game in my city, and I can honestly say that I don’t know how to feel about it. My state went Red Tuesday night. That means that odds are the majority of people I perform in front of not only disagree with me, but also actively chose to ignore things that were right in front of them in exchange for the promise of a “great” tomorrow at the disadvantage of minority groups and women. I am always proud to be an American and a part of this wonderful country, but at this moment it is hard not to feel confused, disappointed, and even betrayed. I thought we were better than this. Actually, scratch that. I know we are better than this. This time, though, we came up short on showing the world and ourselves that this is true.

As we go forward with concern and even worry at the thought of the unknown future, there are a few things we should and must focus on; acceptance, tolerance, hope and, of course, love. There will always be someone disagreeing with you, who hates x, y, or z about you and the way you live your life. There is probably always going to be a new bully attempting to ruin things. The America I know can overcome these differences despite the hardships that block the path. And as sad as it may be to realize, we have to. Because at the end of the day, if we don’t have each other, what do we have? TC mark

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