Slinging derogatory terms around to describe political leanings has become commonplace in modern American discourse – neither the left-wing nor the alt-right are innocent in that. But one word you don’t hear in many of our polarized conversations of late is the only one that really matters: human.
There was a time when politicians and citizens could both literally and theoretically cross the aisle. We had long and heated debates about things like taxes and gun control, but in the end, you’d often find those same opponents commiserating together over a beer. In better times, strong opinions and beliefs were tempered by an ability to hear the other side and make compromises for the better good. These are not those times.
I desperately miss humanity right now and the best way I know to deal with that is to be as human as I can be. I am writing to share my own story and I hope that you’ll take the invitation to respectfully return the favor so that we can begin to understand each other.
I don’t hate the other side but I do the hate the choices they’ve made and I’ll share two simple but substantial reasons why.
First, I am a woman and mother.
I am a survivor of sexual assault, as are many women I know. It is reported by RAINN that one out of every six women in America has been the victim of sexual violence at some point in her life. Unfortunately, that statistic does not account for the two out of every three assaults go unreported.
Donald Trump has been accused of rape or sexual assault on numerous and unrelated occasions. He’s used language that seems to condone the violation of women. What message has this election sent to predators? Protecting my 13-year-old girl and teaching my boys to respect women just became much harder. The increased fear I have for them is almost unbearable and I’m not in any way okay with that.
Second, I will never stand for racism or xenophobia.
My family is a mixture of races and religions, as are my friends. The rise of intolerance and hate crimes throughout this election cycle has made me worry for the safety of people I love. And it only seems to be getting worse by the day. Incidents have increased dramatically since the electoral college count came in.
What am I supposed to say when my kids ask why the new president wants to deport or ban their friends? How do I explain the surge of racial tension reported in the news? I don’t have good answers to those questions because I can’t understand them myself.
I’ve asked decent, good-natured Republicans why they voted for Trump and have encountered some common responses. Many have put faith in his ability as a businessman and just as many hope he won’t do most of what he promised on the campaign trail.
Here’s my problem with that: he never proved that he was a good businessman through any tangible evidence like his tax returns, but he did clearly state what he wanted to do as president. He showed us who he is and nearly half the nation chose to ignore the obvious in exchange for the fantasy. We’ve traded our humanity for unsubstantiated promises and hope for “hope not.”
Our reluctance to acknowledge each other as human beings with real lives and real fears has created the situation we are currently in, where half the country is celebrating and the other half is crying.
I have too much faith in humanity to accept that this is who we are and have to believe that we’ve arrived here because we’ve lost sight of what matters. People feel strongly on both sides and everyone should have a place at the table to express what is important to them and why, but this is not the way to go about it.
I write this hoping it might resonate with at least one person on the other side of the ideological aisle so that in turn they might share their story and help me understand their point of view. We may not like what each other has to say, but starting the conversation is the best first step to bridging the divide before it has the chance to get any worse.