Framing Our Responses to the Election & Civility

This is not a political post. It is a post about our individual response to the outcome and productive ways we can move forward together, regardless of our individual political beliefs.

Early Responses

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-8-43-14-amSocial media can be a great asset and blessing, but it can also be detrimental to our social relationships and civility. When people use social media to vent their emotions and opinions – without thinking things through, it often results in misunderstanding, hurt feelings and civil divisions. This election is no different. Social media is lit up with many posts wondering how hate and racism could triumph in these days. It is unfortunate that this is the view many people choose to take. Mistakenly assigning intent leads to negative outcomes.

Let’s Think This Through

Polls showed that majority of voters found significant flaws in both candidates, many casting their vote against the other person rather than for their candidate of choice. With roughly half of the population voting for Clinton and half voting for Trump, both sides could make a very negative case about the other and those that support that candidate. Clinton has been the center of several scandals such as the deleted emails, the Clinton foundation and getting DNC support over Sanders during the primary. Trump, through his own mouth, has said some really awful things…and then some.

To blatantly call half of Americans bigots, racists and/or haters (as many are doing on social media) is to prejudge without evidence. It is full of vitriol and is not conducive to a united people; it is a divider. The words of one person are one thing, but we should not extrapolate that into half of the US population. There are many reasons why someone may have voted for Trump…let’s think about a few possibilities. (1) Some may actually be racists, bigots and haters (2) Some may have voted party line (3) Some may have voted for a businessperson, not a politician (4) Some may have voted against the traditional political establishment.

If you really think about it, the last one seems very realistic. Eight years ago we elected President Obama. He was a relatively inexperienced senator, not part of the political establishment. His ideas were fresh and people wanted change that an outsider could bring. Recently, Bernie Sanders, even as a self-avowed socialist, received a ton of support because he wasn’t part of the establishment. In the Republican primary this year, Jeb Bush didn’t make it very far. He was part of the establishment. Trump’s primary opponent was Ted Cruz, a thorn in the side of the Republican establishment. When we step back and look, people may not have been voting for hate after all. Given the voting among both parties over the years, we may have simply been voting against the political establishment.

Tearing Others Down

So why do we take to social media to tear others down…people we don’t even know? Why do we incorrectly assign intent and pronounce our biased judgment on our fellow citizens, not just now but in many aspects of life? Because it feels good! Whenever we tear someone else down, we are standing (at the moment) a little higher than them…at least in our minds. That feeds our egos. Unfortunately, we are filling a glass with no bottom.

When someone disagrees with us, we seldom take time to understand their position and thoughts. That is a significant weakness of humans. We would prefer to put our face in our phones, spending time spreading our opinions rather than understand the other side. We are all Americans. My guess is we have very similar core values such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Now, we may all have very different views to get there. That is where civility comes in. What’s done is done. We may agree or disagree with the outcome. Our choices have a lot more to do with the quality of our life than a president. Let’s ensure we choose wisely, and choose civility.