By Julie Booth
By the time this article hits the printer, we will already know who our next president will be. Now, I do not want to discuss in this article a Trump presidency or a Clinton presidency, and I do not want to discuss which is right, which is wrong, which is good, and which is bad. I feel that this past year and a half we’ve been a nation divided, more increasingly each day. We all have argued like children, and we’ve grown more angry and hateful and divisive. The results of this election are irrelevant to this article, because no matter the outcome, the divisive and ornery attitude this nation has adapted because of this election cycle will not disappear. Long gone are the days where political opposites can sit together and have an intelligent and respectful conversation, because if this election cycle has ingrained anything in our head it’s that we should not tolerate those with whom we disagree. We can no longer “agree to disagree” and leave it at that. Instead, we should be harsh towards those with whom we disagree, and we should misapply the connotations we individually associate with one’s political affiliations for one’s personal character.
I myself come from an extremely politically diverse family. My father is a walking billboard for the Republican party; my mother is an independent; I am a Democrat; and my sister is still mourning the death of the Bernie Sanders campaign. While my family could not be more all over the political spectrum, we are still able to discuss politics, the news, and current events without anger or heated argument. We can sit civilly around the dinner table and discuss social and economic issues without judgement. I’d like to think that most families in America are like mine in this way, because this is how America should be. This is what America used to be.
In no previous election have we seen the degree of hostility and personal attacks between candidates that we have in this one, and neither party is innocent. Not only have both Clinton and Trump insulted each other, but they also have insulted each other’s supporters, which, in turn, invites viewers and supporters to join in on the hostility. As democrats are attacked and removed from Trump rallies and Trump supporters are called “deplorables” among other things by the other side, Americans feel personally involved in the ire and provocations of the campaign, pulling us into the same volatile speech and tactics that the candidates utilize. Just a few years ago people would not have been unfriending people on Facebook based on who they are voting for, nor would they be arguing with complete strangers about the election. In the 2008 election cycle, Barack Obama would have never said that John McCain was not a war hero because he was captured, and McCain never would have called Obama’s supporters “deplorable.” They would not have attacked each other at political debates about private email servers, tax returns, or infidelities. They would have respected each other as leaders and civilly debated the issues and their plans to fix them. Because of this model of respect they set before us, we as Americans respected one another’s differing opinions.
This past week, President Obama spoke at a Clinton rally, only to be interrupted by a Trump supporter who was protesting. In Obama’s response to this protester, we can see the stark contrast between the tactics of former politicians and those of the current election. While at Trump rallies protesters have been physically attacked, verbally assaulted, removed by security, and even arrested, Obama insisted that the crowd respect this man’s right to free speech and his status as a Army veteran. Obama insisted that the crowd not boo the protester, but rather go and vote. He kept repeating the same word throughout his response to the protester: respect. “We have to respect that,” he reiterated after each point he made, calling out to all Americans who may have lost that mindset in the midst of this ugly election and who may be too quick to jump to a harsh response.
That being said, I am in no way trying to suggest that the things being said by the candidates and by other Americans in this election cycle should not incite anger in us. They should. The insults and the hatred that have come to characterize our society in the past year cannot be allowed to stand. However, over the past couple of months I have heard numerous hopefuls stating “I can’t wait for this election to be over,” as if on Nov. 9 the ornery disposition of our nation will just magically evaporate; our less preferable candidate will simply go away; and everything will return to the way it was, just under new leadership. This simply will not happen. Our nation has become too divided for there to be such a clean resolution. Too many things have been said, and too many things have been done out of hatred for America to transition so easily.
Despite who wins the election, this nation’s hostility and divisiveness will not disappear. No matter the results of the election, the outcome will be the same—continued division, a condition only exacerbated by the fact that our disunion does not lie in class divisions but in varying ideologies. We are allowed to be angry at each other, and we are allowed to protest, and we are allowed to speak our mind, but we must stop being so cruel to one another. We may disagree and we may fight, but we need to remember that in the end we are all in this together, and we need to find a way to live together. Instead of arguing, we should be debating. Let’s stand up for what we believe in, but let’s remember that we can do so while being intelligent and kind. Like President Obama said, we have to have respect.