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Finding Bravery Before the 2016 Presidential Election

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Unless you’ve quite literally been living under a rock for the last 12 months, you are painfully aware (as we all are) that we are in the midst of an election year. Not just any election year, though — the 2016 presidential election could quite possibly go down in history as the most contentious election ever held.

Still, come Nov. 8, it would seem either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will take over as POTUS.

Suffice it to say, the battle lines have been drawn. Emotions are running high on both sides, and it seems like social media has become a vehicle for running commentary on which candidate is the bigger cretin. Depending on where your political ideologies align, you may find yourself on the fringe of your friends’ list. You know, holding onto that imaginary and rapidly fraying line of demarcation that binds you to those people despite your drastically different belief systems.

The things I have witnessed people say over the course of the 2016 presidential election that have shaken me to my core. The visceral power with which their words hit me felt like a punch to the gut. It’s not surprising, then, that a sense of dread has settled over me the last few months about the state of our country.

Where do we go from here? Come Nov. 8, after all of the ballots have been cast and tallied, will we be able to reconcile what we wanted with what we got?

Today’s #NaBloPoMo prompt asked that we recall the last time we did something brave — and, for me, that moment came by way of the political web of worry in which we’re all currently entangled.

I made the choice to speak out, regardless of how I might be perceived and despite the fact I knew it would likely leave me fielding comments for days. On my Facebook page, I posted this:

It reads:

As incendiary as this may be, I am going to go on record right now as saying the following: I do not support Donald Trump. I do not identify as a Republican, although I think the two-party system needs to evolve anyway. For these things, I am not ashamed.

The reason I am saying this here is because I have seen so much hateful rhetoric on my Facebook feed lately that I have considered deactivating it. Unfortunately, part of my work entails being on and engaging in social media, so I can’t do that. What I can do is offer a gentle reminder to people on both sides of this argument that we still have to find a way to look each other in the eyes and carry on after this election is over. On both sides, we need to practice more tolerance and kindness.

We likely all have people in our lives (and on our feeds) whose ideologies do not align with our own and, chances are, we aren’t going to change their minds about the candidate they are choosing. I think Donald Trump is a divisive and dangerous man whom I could never in good conscience vote for. Obviously some of you feel the same way about Hillary Clinton. Feel whatever way you want and post whatever you want about those candidates on your wall. After all, it’s a free country. But perhaps we could all try to stop demeaning and degrading people who don’t think just like us (i.e. don’t support the same candidate). I’m guilty of this, too.

I come from a small town in the South, where I’ve always been a bit of a square peg in a round hole. I would say I’m far more liberal than most of my friends and family on Facebook who grew up here, yet I will always love these people and this state. Those of you who truly know me are aware of my beliefs and I yours, and we’ve managed to remain in each other’s lives all these years. That is because we respect each other and, quite often, agree to disagree. Can we have more of that? And less of the name-calling? Less of the silly memes that marginalize each other’s opinions and values?

If you would like to hear my personal thoughts on the presidential candidates and why I can not and will not vote for Trump, please feel free to message me. I would be happy to expand on that dialogue with you. In the meantime, I will try to be more mindful of the fact that I have many friends from many walks of life who think differently than I do, and I will try to be more respectful of that. Hopefully you will do the same.

Know what happened? People surprised me … in the best possible way. They agreed. They, too, wished we could all find some sense of mutual respect, if not solidarity. They were kind and measured in their comments.

Over the course of the 2016 presidential election season so far, I feel as though I’ve seen bravery displayed in myriad ways with countless nuances. I’ve come to believe that while bravery routinely requires you to use your voice, sometimes it also asks you to be silent. Sometimes bravery is not in the things that you say, but in the things that you don’t say. And, oh so often, it’s in the things you do.

Image credit: Diego Cambiaso/Flickr (White House)

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