It’s a strange day in America.
As I write this, the country is waking up to a new president-elect, one that so many expected would be nothing but a blip on the radar as election night results came in. That blip became an all-consuming one, though, and suddenly—understandably, in many cases—people were forced to see that the country wasn’t what they thought it was.
The arguments have already begun, the fingers are being pointed as people try and figure out how it happened. We are experiencing our own version of Brexit, where everything indicated things would go one way and now that they’ve gone the other, no one is quite ready to accept it or believe it. Maybe in another four years, or eight, or maybe even more, this will fade, once the future arrives and we can reflect back on everything, but for now, it’s still very, very raw.
I'm not all that surprised that things turned out the way they did; this was always a possibility, no matter how remote it seemed. But that so many people are shutting down, closing themselves off, and generally refusing to be anymore. Facebook is never the most wholesome environment, but as I’ve scanned the posts in my feed today, I can’t help but be amazed at how bleak it’s become, how despondent, how utterly devoid of hope and joy. The rest of social media is the same, and the feeling is that it’s not just people’s online behavior that’s been affected. Hate is running rampant, hate and fear, and that’s the tragedy here.
I do understand this to some degree. People had much of themselves invested in this, one way or the other. There are many people rejoicing today, just as there are many who are in mourning. Emotions are high. Some need a chance to heal, to process, to come to whatever acceptance they’re able—if they’re able at all. Others feel vindicated, and need the chance to express that vindication publicly. In many ways, we're experiencing something akin to the shock after 9/11: the country had to process what happened in whatever way they could, good or bad, and then it began to move forward again.
What I hope is that we will see the same thing happen now that happened then. After the initial shock wore off, people pulled together, ignored their differences, and stood united against the common enemy. There were fringe elements, of course—there always will be—but for the majority of the nation, we stood as one. For what might be the last time I can remember, we felt like the United States, and not a bunch of people with their own agendas, all our differences set aside for one brief, uplifting moment amidst the turbulent storm we endured.
As I sat glued to the television, night turning to early morning, watching returns come in, I took one thing away from it all above everything else. We are not a united nation. We are a nation that is dramatically divided. Race, class, creed, morality, distrust; everything is on the table. The things that brought us to this point cannot be laid at the feet of any one thing; to try and do so is a disservice to the reality we all witnessed unfolding. The only way to fix it is to come together like we’ve done in the darker moments of our nation’s past, and go forth together, united as one people, no matter what our background or heritage.
I’m not deluded; I fully understand that is much easier said than done. But it is the only way we can come through this without destroying ourselves.
If you’re one of those people who need to heal and to process, please, by all means do so. Take the time to find the strength within yourself that you’re going to need in the days and years to come. Come to remember what you were so passionate about in the first place, and please don’t let your voices stay silent for long.
If you feel the need to gloat and revel in your victory, one of the great things about this nation is that you have every right to do so. But please understand that hate and intolerance have played a large part in bringing us to this point. You must be willing to find common ground if the country is to heal itself and move on. You don’t have to agree with what someone else believes or thinks or feels, you just have to accept that they believe it or think it or feel it. Differences aren’t all bad; it’s the uniqueness of every individual person that grants us such potential for greatness. You can dislike what someone does, but remember that they are still a person, too, with hopes and dreams and feelings, just like you.
Things look bleak today, but they will only remain that way if we let them. Let’s not do that.
Everyone talks about how much they love to be an American, so let’s get back to the key word in our country’s name and become the United States once again.