Firstly, I recognize this post will slowly sink into the abyss that is the realm of discussion revolving around this year’s presidential election in the U.S. I promise you, though, this isn’t a post about the candidates, or their positions, or their respective faults, or advantages or whatever the fuck you want to argue about. This is about what’s happening on the ground, between friends and families. This is about a massive cultural awakening that seems to be happening for only a few of those really paying attention.
The phrase “agree to disagree” doesn’t cut it for me in this scenario. In the last few months I’ve heard several things out of the mouths of friends, for whom I carry a very deep respect, that have stopped me in my tracks. I am proud of the fact that I respect the democratic process (if it really exists any more), and I truly respect the right of another individual to carry their own opinion. You can laugh at my fandom of Notre Dame football all you like, I’ll still support the team and respect the fact that you think I’m an idiot. We can still hang out and drink beers while we eat buffalo wings because at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. It’s just a game.
A presidential election is not a game. It’s not a joke. And the conversations at dinner parties are getting heated. It’s gotten so bad, at one point I looked to my wife and asked, “Can we still be friends with them? Is this something you end a friendship for?” This struggle is very real for me, as I know it is for many others around the country. Call it dramatic, but this is a cultural line in the sand, and it will define the way our country moves forward for the next several years. True colors are being spilled out all over the floor and there isn’t a mop in sight.
In a debate that has been reduced to name-calling, where the dialogue is not much higher than the reading level of a third grader, I have to stop myself somewhere. I can’t just sit and ignore the conversation because then I’m just as guilty for allowing some of these topics to be considered in the first place. The fact there are people I highly respect, and consider very intelligent individuals, falling in line with a cultural wave that promotes racism, sexism, fear-mongering and mob mentality terrifies me. I’m more afraid at this point of the people down the street with Trump signs in their yards than I am of a “terrorist” bombing one of the major cities I travel to on a regular basis.
In my mind, the scariest part, is that intelligent individuals are allowing fear to infiltrate their world-view. They’ve given in to the pressure of unrelenting media outlets who are more interested in sensationalizing news than reporting it. They see their friends or co-workers out of a job and have begun to think the rumors are true. Except they didn’t listen to any of those rumors before, when we had a white male president, and a woman wasn’t in the running to take the largest seat in the city on the hill. I’m left wondering what happened to them, asking when their mind-frame changed. When did they become afraid?
What causes a person to be so angry with the current state of things they’re willing to vote for a misogynist megalomaniac who’s been endorsed by Grand Dragons of the Ku Klux Klan? These are people I know and love! Our children play together, we fight social unrest together, we volunteer in soup kitchens on holidays and we talk extensively of ways to make our small corner of the world a better place. What has brought them to this place of feeling like a complete upheaval of society will actually make things better? What took their hope away?!
I look at news broadcasts, read posts online and maybe more than I should let myself dive into some of the most obscure conspiracy theories regarding political and social events of the last few years. Not because I necessarily buy into them, but because it’s my responsibility as a citizen of my community to be informed. At this point it’s getting difficult to argue with some of the notions being promulgated that there is some dark force working behind it all to socially engineer a race war in America. Why not?! We have a black president, which for some seems to be the final sign of the apocalypse. What better time could there be than now to instigate cop-on-black crime? To raise the awareness just enough that the tension is too much.
Could it be that’s what’s fueling part of the trump-pollution? This nagging thing on the fringe of our conscious minds where we know something isn’t quite right with our world right now, but can’t quite put our fingers on it? That doesn’t mean that we should just accept what’s being given to us. That doesn’t mean we should give in to our fears and anxiety, just to appease a longing for some nostalgic time when things were “simpler”. In the history of the world I’ve never read of a problem that was solved by simply blowing up the other country.
We are at a time and place at the dinner table when our children are listening to our conversations. They’re asking questions about what’s happening around them. They’re learning from our actions, and reactions, forming their earliest opinions. It’s a terrible position to be in. Do we alienate our friends who carry these different opinions because we can’t stand for such divisive notions to even exist? If we do, we’re only serving to add to that divisive mentality; we’re only adding to the unrest and giving into our own fear. But then what, do we love our friends anyway? Do we forgive them for their apparent lack of understanding of how the rest of the world operates? Does that make us weak, because we respect another’s right to their own opinion?
The questions abound.
I don’t know if one answer is more right than another. “Make our community safer” is interpreted differently everywhere you go. For many, I’m discovering, that means eliminating anything that is “different”. That word, in turn, gets reinterpreted all the time. And for just as many, the actions being taken are reminiscent of atrocities we’ve fought world wars over.
There is one thing I do know, and that is these situations call for a gross amount of maturity, patience, and understanding. I tell myself as long as we’re making decisions based on positive intent, on making our small corner of the world a better place for our families, then the words “right” and “wrong” shouldn’t matter. If we don’t learn from history we’ll continue to repeat it until we do. The cycle has to break sometime. If that means that I have to continue to drink beers with my friends and grill out while our kids play together in the yard, then I guess I’m willing to give it a try.