Our Nation is Already Great, It Just Needs to Be Polished
By Thomas Fisher (Student at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, SC)
I am a college student at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina. I am a left-leaning libertarian who identifies as a homosexual and who is very passionate about the socio-political issues in our nation.
I think for most Americans, Tuesday night was a night of incredibly high stress, a lot of anticipation, and a spectrum of differing reactions. In my small two-bedroom apartment in Myrtle Beach, SC, my boyfriend and I sat closely watching as various news sources updated live, interactive maps of the states as polls reported their statistics, and as news groups like the Associated Press called the victories for the states. We sat in complete silence and didn’t move from our couch for nearly six hours as we watched Donald Trump inch closer and closer to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election. It seemed the closer he got, the more my heart sank. The more the number of votes grew, the more tears that began to roll down my cheeks. When he reached 264, I broke down. I cried as the progress our country has made in the past eight years seemed to be shoved out the window, and only in a matter of hours.
I was upset, sad, and angry. And somewhere, deep down inside of me, I felt hate. I was furious at the people who voted for Donald Trump. I could not understand how people could vote for someone who used such intolerable rhetoric for his campaign trail. I had heard all of the reasons people could throw out to justify their votes, but still there was nothing that could be said to snuff out the rage inside me. I turned to Facebook and began to read. I wanted to lash out at people, and towards some people, I did. I blocked people. I unfriended them. I wanted them to get out of my news feed. Finally, I shared a post, which at this point I regret doing at all. It was a meme that said “If you vote for Trump today, make sure to explain to your LGBTQ+, female, black, Latino/a, Muslim friends why they don’t matter to you.” I felt like it was a valid point to me at the time. If you voted for Donald Trump, then you voted for the whole heteronormative, sexist, racist, Islamophobic bundle of beliefs. If you voted for him, then you obviously had to be okay with those things.
Wrong. I was so wrong, actually. Immediately after posting the meme, I had people react to it with laughter, sad faces, angry faces, and even received comments that only angered me even further. I allowed it to stay on my timeline for nearly twenty minutes and then finally I took it down after some very angry comments were posted by my mother.
Wednesday morning led to the somber emotions that I shared with a lot of people. My Political Science professor had thankfully canceled class that morning in order for people to reflect on the election results from the night before. Later in the day, my mom called and as you can imagine, she wasn’t happy with me. My mother is a highly devout woman and is someone that I respect very much, but we don’t see eye-to-eye on very many socio-political issues in our country. She said to me “You need to be careful about the things you’re sharing because they affect me and your father,” she said. “I do care about you and I love you very much. No, I don’t agree with the way you’re living and you know that I raised you differently, but that will not stop me from loving or caring about you.” This was a turning point for me. While I still felt very isolated and sad due to the election results, I realized the greatest issue with this whole situation.
Society is running low on compassion. One of the greatest things I was ever taught growing up was compassion. I was taught to realize what people were going through, but more importantly I was taught to feel and try to understand.
I was taught to empathize when I see women starting hashtags on Twitter, or people of color protesting because of the members of their community being killed, I try to empathize with them. When I see Mexican-Americans being called criminals, I try to empathize with them. Why? Because I have faced bullying first hand. I know what it’s like to be a part of a marginalized community and the only thing that I truly want is for someone to try and understand me instead of calling me a “homo” and moving on with their life.
A lot of people have forgotten how to feel compassion for others. I can admit, that I started to lose that characteristic. I find it easy to get irritated with people, and to lash out at them for the stupidest most trivial things. Driving too slow? You’re an idiot. Walking too slow? Get out of the way. Standing in the middle of the hallway, aisle, breezeway? What are you, ignorant? Move! But why? Why am I entitled to clear roadways with easy, speedy traffic? Why am I entitled to push around people when they’re in my way? Why am I entitled to make hateful faces at those that are being an inconvenience only to me?
I’m not, but a lack of compassion shows that I think I am. Compassion is not just going out and giving five bucks and a cheeseburger to a homeless person in the street. Compassion is looking at the bigger picture and saying “Hmmm, why is this happening the way it is?” Maybe it’s because their religious beliefs hold them to a standard of high morals. Maybe it’s because they don’t quite understand what is happening. Maybe it’s because they were living from paycheck-to-paycheck and something horribly unpredictable happened. Progress in our country needs to be driven by love and understanding. Not yelling at the people who are automatically generalized as “a basket of deplorables” just because they don’t agree with you. We have to stop saying “be open-minded” but then turn around and do something so close-minded as generalizing rural, middle-to-lower class, white citizens as uneducated or ignorant. Everyone has a right to their own opinion just like I have a right to mine. Just because we disagree doesn’t mean that we don’t have our own valid reasons for believing the way we do.
I guess the challenge I’m trying to write about is this: learn to stop, think, and understand. Learn to empathize with marginalized communities before automatically thinking that they’re just complaining. Learn to think about why a majority voted the way they did without generalizing them and directly relating them to the person they voted for. This is a challenge for everyone. Learn to love the people around you. Talk to them, invite them over, learn about them and then let them learn about you. Our nation is already great, it just needs to be polished.