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Call to Empathy

In under a day, the American dream took a stark turn to a populism driven repudiation of what we have all come to know as our government.  The rejection of the establishment, the shakeup of institutional norms, and the disavowing of ‘political correctness’ won on November 8th, with Donald Trump chosen to head the ship of the greatest country on earth.

Although a long night, the change of power was swift and lacking of any serious allegations of a rigged election, despite the popular majority of Americans choosing the losing candidate.  But the same smooth handoff which Obama promised is being rejected by many, as Trumps victory has cast a shadow of fear and uncertainty over millions of Americans– Muslims, women, African Americans, and Hispanic Americans especially.  

CNN contributor, Van Jones, articulated the feelings of consternation and helplessness many minorities are feeling, blaming the election of Trump on “white-lash”, or a reflexive reaction by white-nationalist minded people to the increasing diversity of the nation.

As witnessed on election night, the alienation of the white, working-class voters boiled over into a groundswell of support and ultimately victory for the real-estate tycoon.  But that comes at the expensive of what could be the dismantling of progress the Obama administration has made, especially on social and environmental fronts.  

This fear was tangible the day following the election with protests erupting nationwide, as well as right here at Marist with students wearing black in support of LGBT rights.  You could not walk across campus without being confronted by somber faces and even tears.

Although many people are disturbed with how the election played out, half of the country is encouraged by the outcome; many feeling like this is the first time their voices are being heard.  And as hard as it is for some to listen to the voices under the blanket of bigotry and prejudice their candidate ran on, it is crucial to do so for the future of our country, and for any hope to heal the wounds that ail and divide us as a people.

In times like this we must remember American democracy was built on the idea of empathy; the idea of listening to the problems of others and working together to build a common solution.  Although much of this was lost in an election cycle that morphed American political discourse into the vilification of two caricatures, both sides must find some common ground.  Yes, Trumps platform was victorious, but a country as polarized as this one will never find resolve if only half of Americans are getting what they ask; that’s not democracy.  

Too many people have turned this election into a competition, defending their respective team in the most untenable of arguments and relishing in the defeat of the opposing side.  I myself am guilty of this.

But the reality is far more ambiguous.  America sees and feels both sides, so both sides should be heard.  The right needs to strip away their inflamed and bigoted rhetoric and the left should be more compassionate towards the populist views of the working class.  A government that works for just half of the country does not work at all.

I am still reeling from the election and trying to come to terms with the outcome, and the effects it will have for years to come.  But I am also holding onto hope, that American ideals will persevere and common ground will rise as the only option to further the pursuit of these ideals.

Although right now it appears we are looking across a chasm of division, when you look deep enough you will find it is not a bottomless pit. There is always a valley there for us to flourish together as Americans.

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