Sigh. The 2016 United States presidential election… or as John Oliver has called it, “the shit-filled cornucopia that just keeps giving 2016”. I don’t consider myself a political person. Yes, I vote… most of the time… okay I vote in the big elections and feel guilty about not voting from abroad for the smaller elections. In a way I have never seen before, this election has had the power to draw in even the most non-political of people. Is this a good thing? Yes, one could argue that everyone should take an active interest in the politics of their country. However, there is a flipside to this, and it is becoming more and more apparent -differing political views have the power to rip a country apart. Hatred is being spewed everywhere I look, and the animosity between political parties is palpable.
It has got me thinking. Have I really been away from the US so long that I have become out of touch with the reality of what it was like to live there? Or has the volatile nature of this political election year fundamentally changed everything? Maybe it is a bit of both? All I know is that I don’t fully understand it, but I don’t like it.
I consider myself open-minded. I have always believed that I am accepting of other people even when they have views that differ from my own. I like to think that since my whole life has been spent with people from diverse backgrounds, religions, and cultures, it has somehow made me an unbiased and tolerant person. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe I am only mostly accepting of other people. In the past, I could listen to someone tell me about their view/culture/religion (whatever it might be) and try to understand it and learn from it. Then if I still didn’t believe the same way as them, I could still like them as a person. Now, it is getting harder. How can I accept someone if they have beliefs that drastically differ from my own? How can I just nod my head, smile, and move on if I feel like the views are the polar opposite of my core-value system? Do I have to? To be the person I have always characterized myself as being (accepting and open-minded), do I have to still like a person even if their ideology is, in my opinion, unfathomably lacking in basic human decency?
I would argue that I don’t have to. There has to be a line somewhere. Obviously, there are some differences that I have never accepted. For example, if a person likes to diddle little children, I would never have agreed to disagree with their lifestyle choice and still accept them as a friend. There is a line. Maybe it is just that I have gotten firmer about where my line in the sand is drawn.
That is what this election is doing.
I have found myself judging people based on who they are voting for. Or, even more so, for the things they choose to share on social media. I find myself thinking how I never, really truly knew this person if they can support or defend views that are misogynic, racist, hateful, ignorant, and prone to incite hatred and violence. And yet, for other things I am more lenient in my level of acceptance. For example, I am willing to agree to disagree on if someone thinks an action was considered legally corrupt. Maybe because I still have some faith in our legal system to make those decisions for me? Does that make me a hypocrite?
Perhaps it all comes down to what values you, as a person, consider most central to your fundamental beliefs. What makes you who you are. And this is where I get scared. It scares the fuck out of me to think that millions of Americans have core values that are apparently so very different from my own that they are willing to justify, excuse, and perpetuate hatred.
As the polls close on November 8th and the winner is announced, does the division in the country just disappear? Unlikely.
Will I ever be able to look at some of my friends in the exact same way knowing this dark side of them? Unlikely.
Can we even still be friends? Perhaps, but maybe that depends on how people continue to act after the elections are over.
Will my family ever be able to go back to normal family chats that don’t involve political arguments? I hope so. I truly hope so because for as much as it pains me to see the country divided by politics, I can’t handle having my family be torn apart by this. I want to be able to go back to how it was in the past…. acknowledging we have different viewpoints, trying to explain our side, disagreeing, and then knowing when we have pushed too far and have to move on and play a board game. Because, well, if I can’t convince certain people in my family that their views are misguided and they certainly can’t convince me on their views, then at least I can feel good kicking their ass at a game of Catan or Ticket to Ride.