A reflection on the presidential election as we go into 2017

It was only a matter of time before the youth in United States started picking up the hostile, dividing language that’s become characteristic of 2016 Presidential Election.

I have had come across a report from a non-profit Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) titled “The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on our Nation’s Schools.” It found the outcome of the election is inducing fear and racial tensions in America’s classrooms.

“My students are terrified of Donald Trump. They think all black people will be sent back to Africa,” one middle school teacher told the SPLC. The teacher was one of more than 2,000 educators who opted to take a survey conducted through SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance Program.

Of the survey, 90 percent of educators reported that school climate has been negatively affected, and most of them believe it will have a long-lasting impact. A full 80 percent describe heightened anxiety and concern on the part of students worried about the impact of the election on themselves and their families.

Many of Trump’s supporters have been described as racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and pro-white supremacy. This is true for some of his supporters, but not all. Instead of focusing on bigotry itself – which I think is often a symptom and not a cause itself – I try to look at the world today and consider it the context of history.

As an example, someone asked me the other night “Do you think humans are intrinsically good or bad?” I said neither. We’re animals, we have social tendencies that can be observed, and, on average, those tendencies repeat in some form or another if people are subjected to similar circumstances. If you were white, blonde, and not Jewish in 1930s Germany, you’d very likely be a Nazi, regardless of your current ethics or politics. Why? Because if you weren’t, the Nazis would kill your family. This, in an extreme sense, is what I mean by structural pressures that force human action.

Muslims, Black Americans, Latinos, LGBTQA+ people, women, and other minorities, all risk serious setbacks, and arduous advances have been made in extending civil rights to more people. Our country is in danger starting in January, and will require strong voices and stronger minds to engage and form political coalitions that can fight back against retrocession. Lamenting outcomes on Facebook will not save you or your friends. The conception of “American” needs to evolve. Instead of demonizing people with different political perspectives (which has become a norm in this country), the need is to recognize one another as neighbors.

The only way through this instability is to find new ways to listen to each other. We need to stop seeing each other as enemies and recognize that, as citizens of this country, on some level we’re all on the same team. Doing this while at the same time preventing the spread of hateful ideology and political violence will be challenging. But, while America is by no means a perfect nation and has made egregious errors in its past, if there’s one thing The United States is good at is rising to a challenge and overcoming it. I have faith in our ability to work through these difficult times.


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