CARMEL, Indiana — A short story to hopefully lift up your spirits in one of our country’s most polarizing times.
I was walking toward the restroom in the library on the day after the 2016 election when I passed by two librarians talking about the previous night’s events. Their conversation was muted. They both appeared to be in a state of shock. As I approached, they started asking me what I thought.
Bryan Ault is a freelance writer.
One was a black man. The other one was a white woman.
The man voted for Hillary Clinton; so did the woman. I voted for Donald Trump. Yet we had a great, hopeful, and respectful conversation about the previous night and days ahead.
The black man seemed surprised with my decision. I explained that I am anything but a racist homophobe who voted for hatred, as many assumed about Trump voters at the time. I explained that I have voted for both parties and that I didn’t truly like either candidate. I explained that I found his comments about women to be very distasteful. But like many, many people who voted for Trump, I voted for him because I was concerned about the direction the country would go under a Clinton presidency. The woman voted for Clinton but expressed sadness at how so many people have labeled Trump voters as misogynistic homophobes.
She also explained, correctly, that people who live in cities (as well as college campuses) often live in a bubble. With the exception of the Keystone pipeline, where are all of the protests taking place nowadays? Cities. But America, she said, is bigger than that. My wife and I, for example, are the only people in both of our families who live in a metropolitan area. The rest live in northern and southern Indiana, the wetlands of southwest Louisiana, and very rural Illinois. Those places came out and voted for Donald Trump en masse. It is those people who felt their voices weren’t being heard, and perhaps still aren’t being heard, so they did something about it.
Although he didn’t like the election results, the black man was very calm and expressed hope. He said Trump’s experience of running a large and successful company means that he probably intends to surround himself with smart people who know what they’re doing. Whether he has done that so far is, of course, up for debate. Nevertheless, he also credited Trump’s successful business career, albeit with many ups and downs, as a promising aspect.
That conversation only lasted 15 minutes. Yet we expressed a semblance of unity. There was a feeling that we were all in this together no matter who won the big seat. When I see all the protests, including those that occurred from die-hard conservatives under Barack Obama, I sometimes wish they would take a hint.
It was a small dose of two things this country needs: respect and dialogue. When I see protests in recent days, I see neither. Many of us are uncompromising when it comes to social issues and that’s okay. But on other issues, such as the environment or national security or immigration or even healthcare, we can easily find common ground.
And we can put candidates in office who understand that.
We didn’t have that choice a few months ago. We had two people who didn’t agree on anything at all. One insulted half the country by calling them “deplorables.” The other frequently attacked her personally.
It didn’t – and doesn’t – have to be this way.
Maybe you don’t think all Latinos should be deported. That’s fair. But can we at least recognize that there are indeed many problems with our border, and that as a sovereign nation, we have every right to secure our country, and that it is the federal government’s constitutional responsibility to do just that?
Maybe we can realize that, yes, there are problems with ObamaCare, particularly on businesses, but also realize that there are flaws in a free market healthcare system, and do what we can to fix those?
Maybe we shouldn’t give a travel ban for all Muslims. But can we at least recognize that we face a growing threat from an ideology that is opposed to the West and its values, and be willing to do something about it?
Can we just take some baby steps? Can we just talk? Can we have honest and mature conversations with each other, in front of each other, rather than arguing in 140 characters? This is hardly the first time where half the country feels angry about who we have in office. Those who are angry nowadays seem to have forgotten that 2008 and 2012 made many Americans feel just like they do.
We need to start coming together.
I’m not saying you don’t have a right to protest your feelings. Public demonstrations and protests are powerful. And as was the case with civil rights, they can indeed accomplish good things.
But I sometimes wonder if having a civil conversation with a few people does more than holding up a sign in front of thousands.
Bryan Ault is a freelance writer.