It’s been a year since we watched the Electoral College numbers unbelievably swing in Donald Trump’s favor. The next day, many students wore black, cried, sat silently in class or refused to show up in order to mourn the result. Today, the biggest tragedy is that a lot of our peers have never recovered from the shock.
Following the election, so much of what I believed about America’s democracy went up in flames. It wasn’t even about Trump winning. My hopes for civil discourse and critical thinking about politics slowly burned, leaving a cynical layer of ash in my head. As a people, we have not moved forward much since the election.
It’s true that President Trump made statements that have seriously offended many Americans, and supported and enacted policies that are morally opposed by many of us. I don’t think this automatically gave us permission to disrespect other people. In the aggregate, I think that our inability to listen and respect others has damaged America’s communities more than it affected our lawmakers.
I originally saw myself as a Democrat because I saw this party in my childhood as the side trying to get something done while the nasty Republicans did everything in their power to impede the Democrats’ progress. As far as I knew, it was Republicans who openly badmouthed Democrats, while Democrats mostly sat and took it and continued on their quest.
I never knew how quickly this sheep-wolf relationship could turn. Democrats became the people to spew their hate onto Republicans just as fast as they lost the presidency.
I understand the urge to do this was very strong. If I learned that someone had voted for Trump, I had to consciously make sure they didn't fall in respect points until I really understood their feelings and reasons.
I think Democrats forgot the election was hard for many Republicans, too. Most of them weren’t big fans of the guy and had to compromise their values as much as we did when we weren’t that fond of Hillary Clinton.
We still have that gut reaction to bring up all kinds of prejudices as soon as we learn that someone voted for Trump. We rarely engage people in open dialogue about it.
This is a huge tragedy. Studies show that both sides, far right and left, become more moderate after getting into a habit of true civil conversation with different opinions. This inevitably means both sides had to learn something, right?
I wish we had engaged in more conversations with people. Now, though, I think we doomed ourselves to two incredibly polarized base groups, with the majority of us floating in the nebulous middle, not feeling much of anything because we feel there’s no point.
Through this year, a lot of us lost (or never gained) the will to truly think critically about politics. We were completely caught up in the drama of the news. I used to check several times a day to see the new juice on Trump, and my friends and I would eagerly chat about it. The conversations always lacked substance because we just repeated verbatim the sensation the internet threw at us. I personally didn't start questioning any viewpoint I read for the first few months after the election, and it's still difficult for me to do so.
However, when the excitement wore off, no progress of any kind was left behind. The Democratic Party continually tried to sensationalize my peers and me into action, but now we feel nothing. This morning, I just received an e-mail to the (exaggerated) effect of: “OMG OMG Martha McSally is entering the race for Senate! How disgusting! Guess how you should feel! ANGRY! Now, donate to DESTROY HER!!!”
All that I got from the email is that McSally is a Republican and they expect the Senate race to be tight. Should I hate her for that? Should I mobilize for that? Please, tell me something of substance. Why are we still not looking for facts? Why haven’t we learned?
I speak for what I can see in my life. If I have learned one thing about politics this year, it's that I really don’t know the intricacies behind policies, and I cannot judge them fairly. I would guess that most university students are in the same position.
What we could have done in the aftermath of the election, though, was make our country stronger at our level, in our circles. Instead, we got so caught up in the fun of the national news in spheres where it's difficult for us to affect it that we neglected our communities.
Many of us are still wearing black. This coming year, I hope we can give up being sore losers and move forward. The politicians and media don’t want us to, but we will be so much better off if we do.
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