The election of 2016 has been contentious and fraught with dishonesty and vitriol. It has also been damaging to the American people, no matter the political party in question. Leading up to the election there had been a great deal of disrespect directed towards the Republican party, causing many people to feel ashamed of their political views. In a country that considers free speech so paramount to the human existence, it is unfortunate that so many people felt alienated and pressured when politics was the topic of conversation, as it had been so often in the months leading up to the election. Let me be clear: in the following paragraphs I am not defending or criticizing a political party or figure, simply denouncing the damage done by the discrimination against a particular voting body.
Let’s begin with the people who simply dislike Mrs. Clinton. Many of the people that supported Mr. Trump in the election race only did so because of misgivings about Mrs. Clinton and felt little to no joy at seeing Mr. Trump in office. There are some aspects of the Clinton campaign that are extremely questionable, and because of that many people shied away from her. These people did not hate her for being female; they did not hate her for championing LGBTQIAPK+ rights; they simply disliked the idea of having what they saw as a corrupt politician in office. However, these people faced the same disrespect and shame that was directed towards almost all those who wholeheartedly supported Trump, despite their relatively neutral stance on his policies and ideals. They were branded as bad people – racists, sexists, homophobes – instead of being treated as intelligent human beings.
Then there is the demographic that genuinely likes Mr. Trump and believes wholeheartedly in his capability as a president. There is a great deal of variety among Trump supporters, and there are a few pretty clear categories. There is a tiny minority of people who are legitimately hateful, but then again, that minority has always been there, and hasn’t been brought up by Mr. Trump’s presidency. The most important group to consider is people who are the polar opposite of white privileged; while they may be white, they are living at the bottom of the economic barrel, and haven’t seen any care or help from the past few presidents. These people want their life back, and they deserve that. While I do not personally agree with this blanket acceptance of what Mr. Trump says, I do believe that with educated discussion, friendly and open political discourse, and a respect for the other side of the party divide, we can learn from this presidency and hopefully change both parties for the better.
However, for the most part, the political discourse in Wilson High School is anything but open, respectful, or educated. In my experience, there is still a great deal of outright dislike and animosity directed towards Trump supporters, and I know kids who face serious emotional and mental stress as a result of their openness about their political views. Because after all, if you support a racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, Islamophobic white man for president, doesn’t that make you just as bad as him?
I don’t expect a lot of people to change their mind immediately after reading this piece, and I don’t expect much of a change in anybody’s attitudes towards the other side of the party divide. However, I do hope that some people will begin to take others’ feelings into account, and ultimately have some good old sympathy, even for those with whom they disagree. This last statement does, of course, apply to any political affiliation, and I want to make clear that this piece is more than a complaint about arguments I’ve had with my friends. This piece is intended to invite people to be more welcoming and open to contradiction. Right now many people are silent in political discussions, and this means that fewer voices are being heard, fewer opinions are being shared, and fewer kids feel free in their opinions and speech.
I understand that there are a plethora of reasons to disagree with Mr. Trump on a number of topics, but do not take out your frustration with Mr. Trump on his supporters. This just makes people feel more alienated and dehumanized, and nobody deserves that. If one’s aim is to change the mind of a Trump supporter, is demeaning them and calling them horrible names really the way to do this? I think that the best thing to do is to find common ground, a place where we can relate to those with whom we disagree. People are people, and even when we are at odds, there are often shared views or feelings present in all of us.
With that, I’ll say one last thing. Love does, of course, trump hate, but why should this love only apply to those you agree with? Why not extend that love to others, even strangers, and through that become more educated about their opinions? The problem with American politics is more than just the politicians, it is the us vs. them mentality, the idea that if somebody doesn’t agree with you they’re wrong. How does something like this encourage freedom of expression? How do actions and sentiments like these help people feel welcome and free in this country? If we are to preach openness and acceptance, we must be truly open and accepting, and not isolate those we disagree with.