Election Fallout: The Wall We Built
A commentary revealing our divided nation
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Your beliefs don’t make you a better person; your behavior does. I first read this quote on the dust-lined wall of a stuffy SAT testing room, and decided upon inspection that I needed to commit it to memory. In itself, the quote does not mirror the eloquence of Maya Angelou, the courage of Nelson Mandela, or the impact of Mahatma Gandhi, some of the most powerful spokespeople to grace the planet, but it spreads an important message–one that I believe the country is in desperate need of hearing right now.
In one year’s time, a drastic spike of hate crimes have unleashed, according to reports documented by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Of the 5,850 hate crimes reported to police last year, “59.2 percent were motivated by a racial, ethnic and/or ancestry bias; 19.7 percent by a religious bias; 17.7 percent by a sexual orientation bias; and 3.3 percent by a gender identity, disability or gender bias,” as stated by CNN.
While there is no official correlation between these hate crimes and Donald Trump’s campaign, the encouragement that the president-elect has disposed upon white-supremacist and hate groups is indisputable. Trump has publicly mocked, embarrassed, and disparaged practically every marginalized group of people, a shameful and disgusting quality in the person the United States has selected to be its commander-in-chief.
It is still shocking and deeply disturbing for me to picture our world in the future. It is absolutely atrocious that instead of electing the first female president in the history of the U.S., a disgusting, vile creep will be sitting in the oval office come January. This is why it is comforting to know that there are people rallying against the racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, and discrimination that Trump embodies. As a country, we have a responsibility to stand up against this bigotry, no matter how great the consequence. It is especially important for those of us with privilege to use it to fight for those without it. Cleveland students have been taking these matters to heart through protesting. Unfortunately, these protests may increase the division of our country.
Due to Trump’s campaign and influence, the United States has split into two halves, in which both adamantly despise the other. It is important to note that while Trump issued the order to build a wall in division of our country, we were the ones who constructed it. Our country has become so disjointed over the differences in perspective that we have lost sight of humanity. We are unable to see that the hyper-liberalism and hyper-conservatism that have erupted from this presidential election are much more alike than different. While these radical views differ dramatically in ideals for our country’s future, neither identifies the real issue: each side fails to take into account the other.
As a country, we have generated this full-scale hatred due to a lack of something rather simple: perspective. We have no understanding or compassion for why “the other side” voted the way they did, and we fail to recognize that different people voted for candidates for different reasons. Many voters did not agree with every statement their candidate made on the campaign trail. By voting for the candidate despite their flaws, that voter must own the ideals she voted for, but that does not mean that she necessarily agrees with everything on that candidate’s platform. Similarly, this election has been called one of the most unpopular in history because neither candidate—Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump—had an overwhelming amount of support. In fact, many people voted for their candidate for no other reason besides the fact that they couldn’t stand to see “the enemy” in the White House. Their candidate was voted in by default. Knowing this, it is important to recognize that not every Clinton supporter voted for the scandalous email corruption, and not every Trump supporter advocated for bigotry.
Furthermore, it is easy to get caught up in the idea that your belief system is the moral high ground. We want to believe that there is a black-and-white answer to every question that is proposed, and that as a world, we have an understanding of all the things that are right and wrong. Unfortunately, a universal moral high ground does not exist. Right and wrong and good and evil are subjective. They are not truth. They are a perspective of the viewer that holds them.
As a result of this election, the U.S. is in a state of complete disarray. In order to move forward, we are in need of the opportunity to heal. Unfortunately, it is impossible to progress or change this country if we do not understand half of the people that live in it, especially if we allege that the half opposite ours is evil. We need to work to understand, support, and love one another, even if we regard the views of others to be wrong. Our beliefs do not make us better or worse people: they just make us human. Our actions—like peaceful protests or despicable hate crimes—speak to our true character.
We may have “built a wall” in division of our country, but we have the power to rise above. We are stronger together, and our love trumps their hate. Our beliefs don’t make us better people, but our actions will. And most important, we understand something Trump never could: Together, we can knock down any wall.