End of an Era, not the End of the World
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Mention the recent presidential election in the middle of a crowded room, and the atmosphere immediately turns somber. Part of the reason for this mood shift is the 50% of people in attendance who are undoubtedly and understandably disappointed by the outcome. But this pervading emotion is more than disappointment – it is the sentiment of mourning. To any outside observer (and many inside the U.S.), it would seem that our country is headed to its doom. This attitude is detrimental to future progress and utterly disregards the reason for the foundation of our government: to listen to each other in the midst of our differences and find a middle road.
By viewing the results of this election as the end of progressive reforms, citizens in opposition to Trump’s policies are in danger of losing power solely based on the belief that nothing can be done. However, in the world of American politics, no end is final. No victory is absolute. This is shown every four years, when we have a chance to radically restructure the composition of our legislative and executive branches, which was proven this November. Very few countries have this privilege. There is a new voice in the White House, yet that in no way undermines the power of the disparate voices of the nation.
This new voice is unwelcome to many, yet those in opposition and those in support of its policies need to remember: politics is never about good versus evil. Everyone who filled out a ballot had personal reasons and beliefs that led them to exercise their constitutional rights as citizens of the United States. I have seen a vast amount of hate on social media, directed towards those who voted for republican or third party candidates. Messages along the lines of “F*** you, this is all your fault,” and “you must inherently hate truth, light, and acceptance if you voted for that ****.” In the midst of all that, some people got it right. An anonymous user on Facebook spread this message the day after the election: “To my friends who voted for Hillary, I love and support you. To my friends who voted for Trump, I love and support you. To my friends who voted for third party candidates or decided to abstain from voting, I love and support you.” An individual’s decision on a ballot is far more complicated than the black and white differences that politics, society, and the media would like you to believe. I have spoken with people in traditionally republican households who say that the phrase “President Trump” sticks in the throat. I have heard countless students both inside and outside of Edina High School expressing frustration that they were underage and could not vote. I have heard people from the center of the political spectrum, saying their conscience could not permit them to vote for either candidate, as they disagreed with the radicalism of both sides and saw the pervasive influence of professional and social media against both candidates.
These voices are important. These voices must be heard, and not hated or discounted. Look around. Look at all the people who disagreed with you ideologically. No matter where you stand, half the population of the United States will oppose you. Or will they? We only truly oppose each other when we start to point fingers. Let’s change perspectives. Look around you. Look at all the people with different needs, with different backgrounds, with different hopes for the future. The purpose of politics, and the reason why our first presidents opposed political parties, is to create a medium for all citizens to make their needs heard, and find a way for the government to effectively meet those needs. When politicians vote strictly party line, the result is gridlock. When politicians switch sides based on self-interest, they fall prey to corruption and greed. The only way our system works is if we are willing to listen, and that is the true reason for the atmosphere of mourning surrounding this election: too often, no one wants to hear the other side, or they are only interested in listening in order to gain ammunition to use against their “enemies.”
The true power in America is the voice of its people. Regardless of if your “side” won or lost, you still have power. Will you use your words to attack and vilify those with a different perspective? Or will you use it to challenge them to broaden their perspective, to do better than you expect of them? Choose wisely. Nothing can turn a person into a monster more effectively and completely than the overwhelming idea that they already are one.