When I woke up the Wednesday morning after the election I felt like I had awoken from a terrible dream. Not because the candidate that I had voted for lost, I had awoken to and fully realized the level of vitriol and condemnation that had been normalized in our society. During the last year of this election cycle we fought in a fight that we believed had to consume every second of our time and thought. Only now that it is over can we truly see the hate and despair that we had been enshrined in for over a year. We can see now that the past year has been a fight that no one was prepared for. No one was prepared for the level of contempt that would come out of our friends and family and ourselves. Only now that the election is over can we try and rebuild what we broke, and the things broken inside of us. We must now try to work together and fix the very fine grained and divisive aspects of our culture that led to the level of hate that we have seen, because I don’t think anyone can handle another election cycle like this in a mere four years.
The morning after the election I watched a monologue that Stephen Colbert gave on election night, speaking about when he was growing up you people discussed politics every four years, maybe two if you chose to vote locally. He explained that people had time to be someone other than who they voted for, and could forge relationships outside of politics. We need to get back to that way of thinking about incorporating politics in our life. If one is only associating and thinking of their identity in the form of their political leanings, they are wrapping themselves in a bubble so tight that no one else can get in. There’s no room for differing opinions from those you take seriously, only “the enemy” whether that be the “bigot” or the “communist”. When we don’t allow ourselves to be anyone other than a democrat or republican, we are shutting ourselves off from the outside world, and forming a dangerously exclusive life.
Throughout this election cycle that seemed to be never ending, most people have been awakened to the problems in our media. We’ve seen that news networks were engineering the process to be as stressful as possible, and that they paid more attention to ratings than standards. As a 21 year old student, I have no authority to speculate on how to even begin fixing the problems that permeate our media, but I know that I can work small. By speaking to those with differing opinions with love and grace, we have room for them to be differing in opinion without being the enemy. The media’s work in oversimplifying every aspect of the election forces people into thinking that our world is black and white. It has always been the work of the media and creatives to show people the grey, that there is always room in the middle, and that for many of us, the grey is the world we live in. I think it’s unfair to label all Trump’s voters (acknowledging that there are many that voted for one candidate simply because it wasn’t the other) “bigots” and all Clinton voters “communists”. If we keep perpetuating this idea of the other side of the enemy, how do we realistically work together? Especially when our countries motto has always been not negotiating with enemies? By instilling this idea of the other side being the enemy, we’re closing ourselves off to any kind of reconciliation or understanding. It’s an easier way to live, to see the world in black and white, but it’s also a more dangerous way to live.
How do we being to repair the loss and anger we have experienced in this election cycle? We speak honestly and freely to the ones we love, with love, in the hopes that we can somehow unite a broken nation. We stop saying “this country is going to hell in a hand basket” and we start looking at plausible ways to improve it. We work with our neighbor instead of calling them the enemy. And we hope to God we’ve learned our lesson with this election so that the next may be a little more civil.