2020 Presidential Election: we are all broken
For some of us, the Presidential election of 2016 was like being trapped in a theater and forced to watch a movie we didn’t want to see. At first it seemed like a comedy, then a horror film, and finally like a foreign film without subtitles. By the time George W. Bush sat wrestling his poncho while Pres. Trump took the oath of office, it was like living in one of those old black and white cartoons where the characters don’t have joints and their eyes bug out of their head. Surely any minute now the house would drop out of the tornado, and the color would return to the world.
Since the golden escalator, many have tried to figure out how we got here. The usual answer is that a bunch of triggered, white Boomers leaned into their inherent racism due to the browning of America and decided to make Trump their hero as a last stand against their inevitable cultural demise because he literally promised to build a wall around the version of America they wanted. It’s sound bite analysis at best, and diabolically lazy at worst.
Trump supporters are loyal because he is the only candidate who has promised a version of America where there is a place for them. They fear those who want to take their guns and mock their religion as backward or hateful. The ones who laugh at their values and call them names like despicable, stupid, and bigoted. They wonder why their struggles don’t warrant compassion even though their kids are in underfunded schools in economically depressed areas where hope seems to fly over them like the airplanes that travel from the liberal meccas of Los Angelos and New York, cities filled with people full of criticism but bereft of solutions.
Trump’s detractors hate him because he has promised a version of America where there is no place for them. They are painted as other for their race, their religion, or their heritage. His supporters laugh at their values and call them snowflakes, libtards, and triggered. They wonder why the candidate who got the most votes was thwarted by a seemingly antiquated system that gives power to the sparsely populated areas of America filled with people full of criticism but bereft of solutions.
Both groups are angry and feel powerless. America is becoming a country they don’t recognize. If only people would do something to help them, to listen to them, to stop blaming them. The tribes are different, but the fear is the same. We feel the same estrangement from our fellow citizens and for the same reason: we fear an America where there is no place for us.
We are broken. But if we are broken, who broke us? Who hurt us and the people we love? “They” did. Who are “they”? Anyone but us. Anyone different from us; anyone who supports a different political party, worships a different god, worships any god, worships no god, the rich, the poor, the young, the old; anyone who speaks a different language, wants people to speak their language, wants people to love like they do, or to love differently than they do; anyone who isn’t us.
These are the people we meet with a clenched fist instead of an open hand. We create spaces devoid of dissent because it is easier to keep our fists and our hearts clenched against “them” if we are only surrounded by “us.” We all insist that we are the injured group, and “they” are the ones to blame. We can feed off our love for each other and cheer our righteousness when we dehumanize, demoralize, and devalue “them” with cruel words, belittling posts on social media, and nullified friendships. There is enough blame to go around, just look at social media, the news, or entertainment. We share, repost, and tweet horrible things about our countrymen, either assuming they’ll never see it or not caring about the effect if they do. We can continue to break each other until there is nothing left but shards of yesterday that cut the feet of those forced to walk on the shattered future we’ve given them. Or we could recognize that we are all on the same road.
The truth is that we are broken, but we can heal each other. Pick just one person this year who thinks differently than you. Just one. And listen to them. Heal them. Make them not afraid. Make them no longer the other. Work to remember that what makes us different is what makes us great.