Needless to say, the election didn’t go the way Bell wanted, but I credit her for tweeting later on, “No matter who wins- my offer still stands- can we PLEASE all be friends again in the morning?”
It’s the right sentiment, but getting there will require work on everyone’s part, especially because this seemingly endless election season left America more polarized and angry than I’ve seen it in recent memory. But still, here are a few observations for Democrats and Republicans (and Independents, too) that would at least move us in the right direction.
1. Democrats need to stop oozing contempt for all Trump voters and branding them all as bigots. While there are certainly bigots in the bunch, that is an unjust over-simplification of what motivated some of his supporters, some of whom happened to be Democrats. As ABC News noted last night, the primary reason people gave as voting for Trump was lack of jobs and economic opportunity in their communities. These people have generally been overlooked, ignored or forgotten by both the Democratic and Republican establishment, and they were angry about it. As a result, they voted for the candidate who acknowledged their struggles and promised to make their lives better. Whether they should have believed that promise is debatable, but simply writing them off as bigots is a problem that the Democrats need to rectify.
If you think the worst of an entire group of people, they will resent you for thinking so poorly of them. Then, they will simply do the opposite of what you’d like them to do.
2. Republicans need to stop treating everyone who disagrees with them as evil – and Democrats need to stop treating everyone who disagrees with them as evil. Because that’s what happens every day, especially on social media.
Labeling people allows you to dehumanize them, which allows you to dismiss them instead of engaging with their arguments. Then you wind up with people who feel ignored and overlooked, and become resentful of that fact, which leads to anger and rage (see point #1). I’m well aware that there are voices on the right who do this (“Obama is the anti-Christ!!!”), but voices on the left do it too, even though they claim to be the voice of tolerance, which means being respectful of people who think differently than you do.
So what exactly does real tolerance look like? I can’t help but think of the story of Keshia Thomas.
In 1996, the KKK held a rally in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that also drew many protesters who didn’t want the racist organization in their community. At one point, a white supremacist with an SS emblem found himself amidst the protesters, and a small group of them chased him, knocked him to the ground, and kicked him, while shouting, “Kill the Nazi!”
That’s when African-American high school student Keshia Thomas got involved. She threw herself on top of the man to protect him from being hit anymore. Then she told the crowd, “[You] can’t beat goodness into a person.”When asked her motivation, Thomas said, “I knew what it was like to be hurt. I wish someone would have stood up for me…Nobody deserves to be hurt, especially not for an idea.”
Thomas never received thanks from the man she helped but, months later, his son approached her to express gratitude for what she had done. She hoped that maybe her act of kindness would end the cycle of hatred and violence in that family.
3. Republicans, beginning with President-elect Trump, need to give more than lip service to working with Democrats and bringing the country together. That means being humble, extending an olive branch to the losing side, and toning down the divisive rhetoric.
As actress Jenna Fischer tweeted today:
Trump supporters: Your vote was for change. Don't let the racists and misogynists encapsulate you. Be louder. Speak out against the hate.
— Jenna Fischer (@jennafischer) November 9, 2016
Or, to quote Stephen Colbert, “Above all, we, as a nation, should never, ever have another election like this one. Do you agree? Now, please. Get out there. Kiss a Democrat. Go hug a Republican. Give a libertarian a reacharound.”
4. Democrats and Republicans in Congress should find some issues on which they can compromise. Political leaders in Washington may not see compromise as a good thing, but the American people should see the wisdom therein and demand as much from our elected officials.
The founders of this country created divided government for a reason. It keeps any one group from getting too much power since “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” If each side needs to give a little in order to meet in or near the middle, it keeps the lust for power in check. It also keeps you from getting everything you want, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because getting everything we want isn’t good for us. After all, I may want to eat chocolate cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but that wouldn’t be very good for me.
The United States is heading into uncharted waters with a new captain at the helm. Yet ultimately, we ordinary Americans are the ones guiding the ship. If we say we want to come together, we can do so. We just need the humility and the willpower to make it happen.
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