Finding a Space for Conversation

Dear America,

How did we become so divided?

We started out 236 years ago as a group of people looking for new beginnings. 

We wanted the freedom to practice our own religions, the ability to have our voices heard in government. 

(It is to be noted that we fought for those things at the expense of the rights of America’s indigenous people).

Since then, our country has warred within itself. We have fought for the basic right of all humans within our country to be their own master. We have fought each other over whether having darker skin should exclude you from voting. We have fought over whether women should have a say in the political machinations of our country. Recently, we fought over whether people should be allowed to marry the ones they love—regardless of whether they are men and men or women and women. 

From my perspective, those battles were won. The right side triumphed, progress rolled forward.

(2020 Edit: The right side legally triumphed in some cases. But socially and systemically, racism and bigotry have continued to shape the foundation of America–including whose voices are counted [voter suppression], who is protected by our justice system [police brutality and biased judicial hearings], and who is given the opportunity to seek prosperity and happiness in our country). 

Yesterday, every American’s voice counted—regardless of their skin color, their religious beliefs, their sex, their sexual attractions. To me, that is a victory, regardless of who won. (2020 Edit — I no longer believe this to be true–see note above about voter suppression). 

But I need to know: When we made those decisions—when the majority demanded equality and our justice system followed suit—were there people who felt alienated? Who honestly believed that evil was winning? 

If so, where did that feeling come from? Where did they see the evil in giving people different from them rights? 

Explain it to me, because I honestly don’t understand. 

Yesterday’s election was a political race. But it was held on moral grounds. 

If you morally felt compelled to elect Donald Trump—a man who has over and over again proven himself to be racist and misogynistic and antagonistic toward anyone who disagrees with him—to lead our country, I want to know why. I want to know how, in the basic essence of what you believe to be true, to be just, to be good, you believe he will work toward accomplishing those moral truths.

(Note: I don’t want to hear about why you chose him over Clinton. Take her out of the equation for a moment).

I want to know these things so that we can begin to understand each other.

Each time I scroll through Facebook, I see dialogue between Trump-supporters and Trump-haters that goes in circles. In each instance, those discussions revolve around things like deleted emails and lies and the political hubbub that comes with every election. 

But I want to cut beneath that. I don’t want to talk about emails and lies and scandals. I want to talk about the beliefs that shape us as people. The things that ultimately guide how we choose a candidate to represent us.  

Within our core moral beliefs, are we different? Or are we just seeing the world through different lenses—reading the same signs, but interpreting them differently? 

Here are my beliefs—stripped bare of politics and cut to their core. 

I believe that it is just to fight bullies and to protect the weak. 

I believe that honesty is important.

I believe our political system should be transparent.

I believe that every person is equally deserving protection and acceptance, regardless of how they look or worship or love. 

I believe that love and kindness are more important than money. 

I believe that rationality and humbleness are important characteristics in a leader. 

I believe that we all deserve to seek happiness and prosperity equally.

I believe we should take care of each other–in hard times and in easy ones.

How do yours line up? 

Once we’ve established how, at our cores, we are the same and different, then we can start to talk about a way forward that includes everyone. 

(A note from 2020: rereading this post four years later, I find that we’re more divided than ever. But I have less interest in reaching across the aisle, and am less surprised that so many individuals in our country voted for Donald Trump. The answer to my question was: Yes. As our country has fought for equality and justice for all, each time social justice has won, there have been a large percentage of dissatisfied, greedy, selfish, morally-bankrupt individuals who felt dissatisfied with the outcome. Who feel that their whiteness should grant them privileges that others do not have, and who would prosper at others’ expense. Honestly, I now find this post to be fairly worthless, but I want to leave it up because it is honest about the flaws in my past thinking, and it is a good touchstone as I become more educated about how white supremacy functions in this country. Please forgive me my blindnesses–I’m still learning how to see beyond my own privilege). 

-Sarah 

DSC_0430
Chara, proof reading this post for me.

 

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