I've been thinking about this for the better part of a week. During that time, I've asked myself the same question over and over again. How the hell did we get here? I think I've finally determined what I believe led us to this place.
In 2008, the United States elected one of the youngest and most inexperienced Presidents ever. We elected him because he gave voice to people who had been voiceless for too long. His "outsider" status was seen as an asset, because it was supposed to mean he hadn't been polluted by the political cesspool. He was elected because decades after Brown v Board of Ed, our schools were still separate and unequal, because minority graduation rates still lag, and because there are only 7 counties in the country where the average black salary is equal to or greater than the average white salary.
In 2016, the United States elected THE most inexperienced President ever. We elected him because he gave voice to people who are scared, and feel that while they serve a vital role to our country and our economy, they're constantly marginalized. His "outsider" status was also seen as an asset. He was elected because while our entire food supply depends on our rural communities, we constantly deride and ridicule their way of life. He was elected because of parents who worked their entire lives to give their children a better life, only to have those children come home from college and tell them it wasn't their work and sacrifice, but rather their White and/or Male Privilege that made that dream possible. He was elected because of the parts of our country we're leaving while we ship their jobs overseas to squeeze a little more juice out of some profit margins.
More than anything, both of these men were elected because of our bubbles. I consider myself very lucky. I know what it's like to live in project housing. I know what it's like to go to the grocery store and watch a parent buy food with food stamps. But I also know what it's like to earn a six figure salary, and for your kids to have every opportunity you dreamed about. I've lived in a farming community with a large KKK presence, and gone to school in the city where I was a minority. I've served as an enlisted man in the military, but I've also earned a masters degree and worked as a adjunct professor. I'm lucky enough to count black men like Charles Wiley and Timothy E Tilghman, immigrants like Joaquin Corradini and Cate Javier Corradini, country boys like Alan Laurent Delfft, Joseph Aiello, and Daniel Shonk, and liberals and conservatives like Caeli Corradini, Megan Fitzsimmons, Abby Kahla, Christy Vawter Brought, Sam Johnston and Maitreya Jay as friends. Many people aren't lucky enough to have this breadth of experience and exposure in their lives. They live in bubbles, and everyone in that bubble thinks, acts, and believes what they do.
Poverty is a state of privation or lack of the usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions. According to the U.S. Census Bureau data released Tuesday September 13, 2011, the nation's poverty rate rose to 15.1% (46.2 million) in 2010, up from 14.3% (approximately 43.6 million) in 2009 and to its highest level since 1993. | Photo: Washington Post |
As long as this is the case, we'll continue to hate each other. We'll continue to swing back and forth from one ideology to the other. We'll continue to place labels on each other that don't serve to describe the other person, but rather to reduce that person to "them" or "other." If you really truly want to make this country a better place, go out and LISTEN to someone who's not like you. Someone who thinks differently. Find out what their life is like. Find out what makes them afraid. How and why they came to think and believe what they do. What they worry about for their family. What their community struggles with. Only then can we begin to move forward, identify our common ground, and do what's best for all of us.
If you do this, you find that we're all pretty much worried about the same things. The poor, young black man in the city is worried about his future, his career prospects, the safety of his family, and providing the best life for his children. The middle class white suburbanite is worried about his future, keeping his job in an ever more competitive economy, protecting his family, and providing the best life possible for his children. And the illegal immigrant working on a farm in California is worried about his future, whether he'll make enough money to eat and support his family, keeping his family safe, and making a better life for his children. We're more alike than we are different. While we may have different views on how to address these challenges, we used to be able to sit down and talk about ways to address them together. We need to rediscover the art of compromise.
The last thing I'll say is this. Trump said a LOT of things that should give any reasonable person cause for concern, but keep in mind that he hasn't DONE anything yet. Let's give him a chance. Certainly, use the avenues you have to let him know what you want and what you expect, but don't write him off before he's actually done a single thing. While Trump's supporters bill him as a straight talker, he certainly wouldn't be the first candidate to promise big on things he had no intention of following through on. If the worst predictions of Trump's presidency start coming true, I'll be right there with you to fight by your side, literally if it comes to that. But I'd wager everything I own that things won't be nearly as bad as my liberal friends fear, nearly as good as Republicans believe, or anywhere near what the worst elements of society are praying we'll devolve into.
"The worst outcome of the election is that we have each been reduced to a series of broad labels that no longer reflect who we are. Mexican. White. Republican. Immigrant. Muslim. We try to look at people as "labels" but we'll never truly see them because THEY do not look at their own lives and families as labels."