So the election happened, and now we have half the country believing we’ve been delivered from evil and half believing we’ve been tossed into Nazi Germany. Only time will tell who is correct, but one thing is for certain: right now, a lot of people are scared of what the future holds. If this election can be summed up in one word, that one would be my choice. Fear. The right fears further expansion of Federal powers, further eroding of individualism, further entrenching of overbearing political correctness. The left fears rampant racism and sexism, a rolling back of human rights progress, and the rise of fascism. These fears have led to levels of mistrust, hate, and vitriol that we haven’t seen in many decades.
In short, we are a nation divided in a way that could rapidly devolve into bloodshed.
The sad thing is, few of us actually want that. Most of us just want the promise of America: the opportunity to live our lives to the best of our ability and provide a prosperous future for our children. Most of us want peace. Most of us want justice. We may disagree about the definitions of those things, but few of us actually want conflict. However, if this election cycle showed us anything it’s that we have completely stopped listening to each other. Nearly all of us lost friends because of political arguments. Nearly all of us witnessed people on both sides who we cared about go after each other like rabid dogs. Those arguments only heightened the fears most of us feel.
Despite everything I’ve experienced in my life, I still believe in humanity. I still believe that most people at their core are decent, honest individuals who are capable of kindness, compassion, and generosity. I still believe that we as a species are capable of better than where we are today. And we as Americans especially are capable of so much more than all of this suspicion, hate, fear-mongering, and dehumanization. Right now, however, we have to set aside our differences and begin the process of healing. If we don’t, the next election cycle might become violent.
So my challenge for all of us is this: first, turn off the 24 hour news cycle (which is THE single biggest source of all this fear). Stop listening to media outlets which generate revenue by keeping you fearful of whichever bogeyman they are peddling. Second, start engaging your neighbors, especially those with different opinions from your own, in meaningful conversations. Find common ground with each other. I’m not saying seek out the most radical opposition you can find and try to convert them to your way of seeing things. That would be folly. No, what we need to do is start rebuilding bridges amongst each other again and realize that we are all more alike than different. Third, we all need to come back from the fringes of our political spectra and move more towards the center. Right or left, the fringes are approaching madness, and we desperately need sanity and compromise.
These are three small steps that all of us can begin right now. We are Americans, all of us. We are human beings, all of us. We need to heal and stop hating each other now. Otherwise, the next step down this downward slope involves violence, and that’s not a future I want for my kids.