"Red, White, Blue, and Dixie Chicks" Inglewood, California 2016
One of the most awesome parts of this last year has been that I met my boyfriend around the same time the 2016 election started to get going. I can’t tell you how many nights, exhausted from the trials of our day we’ve trudged to the gym to work out and suddenly found ourselves energized talking about the various complexities of the election. In fact, even when we’ve had interpersonal arguments — which luckily have been few and far between — if one of us brings up Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, a couple minutes later we are animatedly pondering some issue or policy, our previous angst with one another forever lost to us in light of discussing what makes Americans think one way or the other.
This election has been fascinating to watch as a writer, to see the divide in our country exposed in a way that it never has been before. And I don’t know how many people do this, but as someone who considered myself an Independent up until this current election, I am constantly asking myself if I’m wrong — the way I see things. This was the discussion between me and my boyfriend last night at dinner. We’re both confounded that someone like Donald Trump can have so much support in light of the bizarre, hurtful, and downright dishonest things he says on a daily basis. But I’m confounded by Republicanism in general — the hate for truth and the mainstream media, the duplicity of being more determined to legislate what a woman does with her body than what a person can do with a gun. How are Republicans pro-life but also pro-death penalty? And if Republican's are interested in smaller government why are they the first ones to write blank checks to our military? It just doesn’t make sense. And I’ve tuned into the conservative stars like Rush Limbaugh, Hannity, and even Alex Jones — just to see if there's something I’m missing out there in the far right conversation. But listening to the hosts of these shows makes me crazy. They literally don’t rely on any facts whatsoever. And I get that people are concerned about Hillary Clinton’s emails because they have the potential to reveal she’s not who she says she is, but holding up private emails in comparison to the public improprieties of Donald Trump is as President Obama said recently, “...a false equivalence." Even if we had Donald Trump's private emails, I would personally have a hard time holding them against him. Holding someone’s private emails against them is like being a teenager who doesn’t trust your girlfriend or boyfriend so you snoop on their phone to see if they are being faithful to you. You go digging for dirt, you’ll probably get dirty. Still, if we must hold Hillary Clinton’s emails against her, having read the juiciest ones, I actually like Hillary Clinton even more! In them she is revealed to be a realist if not sometimes cynical. She’s clearly someone who wants to understand all sides and figure out how to get all sides to work together whether that’s main street or wall street. In her emails we learn she realizes that to get things done one must have a strategy against one’s opponent whether that opponent be as worthy as Bernie Sanders or as disreputable as Donald Trump. And having strategy to get something done or win an election is not a weakness as some people would make it out to be. This is a wildly important trait in a leader!
Over the course of this election, I’ve de-friended a handful of people on Facebook and Twitter. This was an action I’ve rarely taken since I joined the social network six years ago probably because I’m careful about who I let into my social media circle just as I’m careful about who I let into my everyday life. But I’ve also come to realize you are who you spend time with, and people’s communications matter — even on Facebook, especially since it is a place we all congregate and share pieces of our lives. And each person I’ve de-friended has posted something on their wall or made a comment on mine that was racist, sexist, xenophobic, dangerously misleading, or an outright lie, and while I can live with differences of opinion, I cannot abide willful ignorance especially not in this information age when the truth is verifiable and people simply decide to ignore it or twist it to make it fit some ridiculous argument.
Still, even if I've now surrounded myself with people of like mind as much as possible, and even if Hillary Clinton wins the election, which she seems poised to do, I’m still bothered that there are people who are supporting Donald Trump, people who will continue to support his dangerous rhetoric after the election. Where have we gone wrong that there are Americans who don’t or won’t see that this man is against every value and moral standard this country was founded on? In particular, his most recent bombast about not trusting the mainstream media is scary because journalists have saved our collective asses over the years reporting on everything from the flint water crisis to the cuban missile crisis to the unauthorized spying of the NSA on innocent Americans. The press has been on the front lines with our military in every war, and they've died reporting about current events so that we could be informed. A free press is one of the most valuable tools we have in our democracy and it is admired and immolated the world over. Yet nowadays there are large swaths of our country who want to flush journalism down the drain -- large swaths of our country who would rather listen to what they want to hear than listen to truth and facts. Luckily, we can look back on our country’s history to see that we’ve been here before. From slavery to the civil rights movement, from women being allowed to vote to gays being allowed to marry, the mainstream media has helped guide our country in a better direction even when that direction wasn't popular, and I pray despite the assault on hard-working journalists by the bullies of the far right, they continue to flourish and stand strong for the betterment of not just Americans but humanity.
Finally, a lot of people are upset about the direction this election has taken. They say it’s bad for the country and it's making them depressed about the state of American politics. I started off this election season wanting to see both sides, to understand if I was missing something out there. What I’ve discovered is that I wasn’t missing anything at all. There is nothing of substance in hate and sexism, racism, and xenophobia. There is nothing of importance in willful ignorance and the peddling of conspiracy and lies. There’s equally nothing morally sound in reading private emails of a politician, I don’t care whose side you're on or what those email might say. This election has exposed people all around our country either for the good or for the bad. And personally, I'm thankful for this unveiling. How can we change the world for the better if we are blind to what type of world we're actually living in or what those we let into our personal space actually believe? As for me, for every person who I’ve de-friended, I’ve actually friended two more. And for every ugly message that has been sent to me, I’ve received five messages thanking me for the stand I’ve taken against ugliness and ignorance. Some people see this election as awful and polarizing, and they just want it to be over. I see this election as not just something that brought me and my boyfriend closer, but I see it as a light that showed me what our country can be in the years ahead if we continue to fight for what's right and good. Growing up is never easy, but with maturity comes greater freedom and for a country founded on freedom, the rough and tumble 2016 election may prove to be much more of an asset than a liability and, in fact, help us mature into the country we were intended to be all along.