On November 8 Americans took to the polls and on November 9 the world stood stunned that the 45th President of the United States would be none other than Donald Trump. President-elect Trump ran a campaign that most thought would result in a win for the democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton.
His democratic challenger also thought she was going to win. Some of us who have been active at some point on the American streets were not surprised one bit, however, at the result. Intolerance, lack of respect for difference and one another, hatred, fear, prejudice and deep political and generational cleavages have plagued American communities for a long time. What the world witnessed this election year, the discourse used, and the ideas put forward have been circulating the streets for more than fifteen years.
President-elect Trump is not the problem. Rather our propensity to demonize and blame one another, to talk at rather than to one another, and to dismiss those with different ideas, beliefs or values are the problems plaguing America. How often have we, as Americans, proclaimed ourselves to be tolerant and advocates of equality, human rights and liberty? Tolerance entails respecting one another and/or agreeing to disagree. It does not imply, in any way, that we all hold the same ideas, beliefs or values. As advocates for equality, human rights and liberty, we have a duty to speak out and to protect our fellow citizens from the harm done unto them by others, whether it is physical or psychological. But at the same time we must also not engage in similar behavior that results in our silencing and/or harming of those who hold different beliefs, ideas or values. America has been and will always be a melting pot of individuals from all walks of life, irrespective of culture, ethnicity, race, religion or sex.
America and Americans need dialogue so that the differences can be bridged and something new can emerge. Will the blaming of those who either chose not to vote or who voted either for President-elect Trumpand/or a third party candidate solve the problems? Should we not be asking why so many Americans chose not to vote and/or voted either for Trump or a third party candidate in protest? Studies abound highlighting the fact that Americans have for longest time believed that those in power do not reflect and/or represent them. It is too easy to say then vote for someone else or have someone run for office who is actually representative of the people or a select group of people. Again polls highlight there are many who believe their vote simply does not matter or that their candidate will not be able to win because of either the nature of the system or the cost of an election. Said views are dismissed by some as being nonsensical or untrue but the fact remains that they exist, and rather than talking about them to ordinary individuals there is a tendency to dismiss the so-called other as being either uneducated or irrelevant. At the end of the day and so long as we have not renounced our citizenship, we are all Americans, irrespective of culture, ethnicity, race, religion or sex. Having ideas different from or considered by some as extreme or not mainstream does not make one any less American than one who stands upon the hill singing with his or her hand over her heart, “God Bless America.” Moreover, no one is irrelevant and this election demonstrates that, particularly when you look at who voted and why. Voter turnout and the lack thereof demonstrate there are deep political, socioeconomic, generational and geographical cleavages across America, which must be addressed in order for America to heal from within and to find something new.
Blaming the Federal Bureau of Investigation or Wikileakswill not change the results. Proclaiming President-elect Trump to be ‘not my president’ makesno difference. Moreover, protesting him and his incoming administration will have no impact on addressing the problems plaguing America. Blaming others, denying him and protesting his potential policies or his incoming administration will only create further division, exacerbate fear and deepen existing hatred between people and communities.We do not even know quite yet what his policies will be and which of his appointees will receive confirmation. Many have also seem to forgotten that it is the legislature and not the executive who is responsible for making and passing legislation, and that the bureaucracy is responsible for its actual implementation. A presidential candidate can say anything on the election-trail but whether or not his or her agenda becomes law depends upon which of those issues actually reach the legislative agenda and the formulation of legislation and its passage by U.S. Congress. The U.S. Congress, moreover, is beholden more to the people than the U.S. President. Americans should, therefore, be directing their collective action efforts toward driving the issues and shaping the agenda of U.S. legislature and participating in local county council meetings. They also need to research the issues and engage one another rather than relying on memes or what is said on traditional or social media outlets. Existing collective action efforts and the discourse used across the divided lines are exacerbating divisions, perpetuating hate, and facilitating fear of the system and the people in power. We the people are the government; if we lead, then those in government shall follow. Issues are the foundation upon which unity can be built. They will help to build bridges across the divided communities and facilitate the dialogue needed.
In conclusion, all Americans are to blame for America’s current state of affairs because we have stopped talking to one another. How many of us only talk to or engage those with like-minded views or beliefs? How many of us actually know and engage our neighbors on a regular basis? How many of us live outside of the little cages we impose upon ourselves? Yes, there are some who do engage in dialogue and who are very active at the local, state and/or national level but there are also many, who for a variety of reasons, are inactive. How many of us preach the need of seeing the world and one another from a multidimensional lens but then only look at it and others from a one-dimensional perspective when someone does or says something that makes the little hairs on the back of our necks stand in attention? America and Americans need dialogue at the local, state and national levels and the world needs to learn more about the nature of the American political system and the roles played by the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Change will come but only with Americans standing together for something new.