Dear America: Learn How to Agree to Disagree

In one week, Donald Trump will become the 45th President of the United States. Whether you’re from America or not, every controversy of the 2016 election received coverage all over the world. Half of my country rejoiced when Donald Trump was announced the winner. The other half recoiled in fear. And next came the twitter wars, violent protests, and jokes about moving to Canada.

During the election campaigns, the mere mention of the names of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, along with voiced support for either of them ripped families, friends, and colleagues apart. It took me less than five to ten minutes into each Presidential Debate to see the obvious and screaming animosity Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had for each other. I saw the same in their supporters responding to online news reports and social media posts. And I was supposed to pretend that I didn’t see that same animosity in the hallways of my high school or in the voices of family and friends who clearly disagreed with each other. I guess I was supposed to ignore the hate and the division and hole myself in, only listening and reading media that supported my political views and nothing else. I guess I was supposed to pretend not to see the chasm of division developing because of political stance, which led to divisions in race, religion, and gender.

Women vs. Men. Black vs. White. Latino vs. White. Gay vs. Straight. Christian vs. Muslim. Pro Life vs. Pro Choice. Natural born Americans vs. Immigrants.

Republican vs. Democrat.

Here we are, today. Merely days away from the inauguration of a man who half of America loves and the other half hates. Here we are, still mudslinging and hating and screaming at one another. I’m not free of it, even at the small high school I attend. Right after the election, people were suspended for inappropriate comments towards immigrants and people of color. At my best friend’s school, supporters of the Confederate flag brought it on school grounds and complained that they should have their own flag if the LGBT community could have theirs. Violence was in the air, and still is. I call my own grandmother and find that she wants to talk politics and how on earth you and your family could have such different views from me.

The hate hasn’t gone away. I could list thousands of instances. You could even pull up my own texts and tweets and find traces of anger towards the political party opposite of my beliefs. It’s easy to talk and rant and tweet and fight about the election, it’s controversies, and especially, the results. It’s easy to write a Facebook post or take to social media to try to rant, to try to  make the other side agree. Somehow, we hold onto the hope that talking or tweeting or just screaming about our views will make someone else change their mind. Knowing the stubbornness of the human mind, I can tell you right now it won’t. But we still try, I still try, because it seems like all of us are incapable of agreeing to disagree right now. No one listens, no one stops and questions what they’re reading, no one decides that acceptance, respect, and tolerance is (or should be) greater than hate, division, and hostility towards other human beings.

What’s especially sad is to see strains of racism, homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, white supremacy, and hate in our society. There has to be a small voice in the back of all of our heads saying, Whoa. I thought we were better than this. It’s even scarier when someone doesn’t even realize that the issues I just listed are real for someone else living in their country. It seems that most Americans have decided that if the issue doesn’t personally affect them and their lives, then it’s not real or not important enough to spend time thinking about.

Here’s where I think this election went wrong: listening. And listening is the thing that, if we as a society do it more often, could help 2017 go right. I challenge myself, you, and everyone else in this country to start listening to someone with different views. Then, even if you agree to disagree about their point of view, at least you listened and perhaps took a step toward crossing those chasms. Challenge yourself and everyone you know to respect and tolerate someone else even if you don’t agree with them.  Our country needs to try to take away the name calling and the hatred and stop making blanket statements about a specific race, gender, political party, or religion. It’s a challenge America needs to take on if we want to move towards acceptance, love, and peace. Regardless of who’s sitting in the White House, that challenge exists and we can be the generation to help the country meet it. And if we can’t agree, let’s agree to disagree.

MC

Mary Claire is a 17 year old student and writer who loves politics, campfire smores, traveling, classic movies, and new music.

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