This morning, the Internet greeted me with all the caps-lock, period. After. Every. Word. Fury it could muster.
There were posts from people claiming they were “in Hell” about the election. People are”devastated”. Angry. Terrified. Alarmed. Given the crude repertoire of our new president’s vocabulary and his choice words about women and minorities, I can relate to the hysteria surrounding Trump’s election. I myself am uncomfortable with the notion. But in Hell? Crying? Devastated?
I would verge on ignorance if I didn’t acknowledge that I have some privilege in writing this as a middle-class white woman who is largely unaffected by policies implemented by the federal government. I know very well that there are many ways political figures can exploit people for their own profit- war, assault, racist decrees… But I want to ask the question: does this president, any president, really have to dictate the way that we live our lives?
I believe people really want to love instead of hate. That immediately sounds foolish; hate is easier, safer, and usually a quicker short-term solution to our problems. It is much easier to write someone off than to take the time and effort to understand their perspective. Throughout this election, Democrats and Republicans have been ruthless with attacks on the candidates and their supporters, throwing out personal issues like marriage and reproductive rights in order to goad voters into the same viciousness advocated by most media outlets. It’s all designed for us to fall into the trap of blaming the “other people”- the people who think about issues differently than we do. In conversation, we call the ‘others’ uneducated. Unprinicpled. Ignorant. Selfish. Stupid. We oppose them. We disabuse them of their thoughts and feelings.
But what would happen if we to tried to understand them?
I don’t think our government officials aim for us to empathize, to understand one another. If we treated one another with respect and cooperated peacefully, we would certainly not have a need for jobs that threaten compliance with violence. While there may be elected officers who genuinely care about the work they are doing, there is plenty of room for corruption in our current education, justice, and socioeconomic systems. These problems are varied, complex, layered; I don’t have definitive solutions for them. But I do have a suggestion about where we can start:
Be passionate for people, not politicians.
Maybe Donald Trump, who is so intensely disliked by his enemies and tolerated irritatingly by his supporters, can help us with this. Maybe he can demonstrate to the American people that change begins in our own lives instead of in the Oval Office. Perhaps we can take seriously the real impact of the refugee crisis and speak up in our communities. Perhaps we can acknowledge the suffering that people of color face from unchecked violence against their families. Maybe we can reach out to the woman with an unplanned pregnancy, acknowledge her challenges, and treat her decisions as absolutely none of our business.
Change begins by refraining from judgement, just for a split second, to take in the thoughts and emotions of the ‘other’. It is accelerated by asking how you can help. Change spreads into positivity by understanding, cooperating, and reaching out to others even if they are the last person you think you want to compromise with.
I propose we start seeing the humanity in our ‘others’. We all want to be loved. We all want to feel safe and secure. I don’t know what disasters or triumphs the future holds. I just hope that in small ways, we can start trusting in the power of our own lives, our own voices, our own decisions to live fully and peacefully. This election is not the end of the world; it is the renewal of the realization that individuals, not political authorities, hold the transformative power to change the world.