Hey, America. Can we talk?
The country was recently divided by some things that happened, and I’m seeing things that are just as scary as what’s already come to pass. I’m seeing more division, more anger and more fear. I guess that’s the difference between “scary” and “fearful.” Scary is a property of something else. Fear is something internal. Scary is a zombie mask or horror film. Fear is an internal motivation.
So, for those of us who lost, we need to be careful. Are we just scared, or are we acting from fear?
I’ve heard some that are angry at those who voted for Stein or Johnson or wrote in Sanders. Some say they hate them. Some wish to remove those people from their lives. I’d like to point out one thing that you can ignore if you want.
Voting is deeply personal. So when that’s your reaction, you’re hating or blaming or eschewing someone for pursuing personal desires that you disagree with.
Stop here for a second if that didn’t spark something.
I suppose for some, your first reaction will be to explain to yourself (and maybe me) how it’s different. Don’t bother. Being the person you want to be is up to you, just as it is all of us. So even I would be a hypocrite if I told you that your personal feelings were somehow wrong or at fault. I just want to point out some parallels I see.
So what do we do? I think the first is to see some of the human truths about what happened. If electing a deeply flawed person is a mistake, it is one that is ours. Ours in the sense that it’s the fault of everyone who voted for him or for her or for the others or didn’t at all. What’s important about that is that it doesn’t make any sense to single out any portion of the participants as “more” responsible.
The second is to look at what the cause of this was. Division, anger, fear, and ignorance.
Then we can look at the solutions. How do we repair division? Is it with blame? How do we calm anger? Is it with anger? How do we soothe fear? Is it with threats? How do we remove ignorance? Is it by ignoring the ignorant? Right, you get it. So did Billy Shakes.
Are we turned Turks, and to ourselves do that which heaven hath forbid the Ottomites?
“But wait!” you say. “You barely-literate gubbin, Othello was referring to an external existential threat with tones of nationalism to boot!” Then you probably look deservedly smug at your dramaturgical grand slam. After your applause dies down, my response would be that, firstly: how much worse is it that we don’t even have an external threat but we still feel like we’re in Cyprus and secondly: was there really a need to use such foul language in mixed company? Have a little class.
To fight division, anger, fear and ignorance we need unity, understanding, communication and education. None of which are particularly pleasant with people who seem so alien, with people who don’t seem to value the same things. But even that attitude is a step on the path demonizing the opposition. The truth is that we all want that same things at the most basic – a happy life with some neat things and healthy kids that are happy and put us in the nice retirement community. Unfortunately, we’ve looked at life and found that the ways we achieve those desires aren’t fully compatible.
There’s no way around our cycle of escalation but that one portion of the discord and division simply abandons retribution.
Working with someone you oppose is the measure of your humanity. This isn’t about extending an olive branch only until it’s slapped out of your hand, then exclaiming that the opposition is impossible to treat with. It’s about looking that person in the eye and understanding why their reaction was thus and responding by working to connect with them. It’s about understanding that someone with such a violent and combative reaction has a reason. It’s about letting those reasons be addressed first without any discussion of self.
We can either accept nothing less than righteous victory, or we can be the catalyst for strength. We can let the petty on both sides view growth as war, while we quietly dispel division. We won’t be thanked, we won’t feel like we’re hash tag winning, we won’t get praise. Those who aren’t capable of reaching compromise must be given it by those who are. And remember that it’s a poor charity that judges those in need.
So this is only a call to those who are able. To be angry or to feel fear isn’t wrong. Even hate isn’t wrong in and of itself. But if you are angry at what anger has wrought, maybe it’s time to see what compassion might achieve.