I remember the first days after the 2008 election as a generally happy time. Glad that Obama had won, still not entirely wrapping my head around just how proud I was of this nation, of our progress.
I knew people who voted for McCain, I knew that they were disappointed. We talked about it, and then we went on with our normal lives.
Clinton was the first President I had the privilege to vote for. I took Gore's loss hard, but I respected the system even if it required litigation and recounts and reliance on mandates under the Constitution. By then, I was in law school, and it was a fascinating process to watch unfold, both as a citizen and as a student.
This time around, though, it's been quite different.
The country is in a different place, the opposing candidate was different. There are new concerns. There has been a shift in the degree and severity of the social opinions of the far right. I'm sure that all those factors, and a laundry list more that I won't bother going into for the purposes of brevity, have contributed to the volatile and angry environment I woke up to today.
That's not all, though.
Social media, I would argue, has more to do with it than anything else.
We have platforms now, public ones, to share our opinions. To lay out our biases. To display our ignorance. To show our hatred.
I think that most people either try to avoid politics entirely, or temper what they post out of respect for those with differing opinions. I strive to be in that category. I have my opinions, and plenty of them. I've shared many of them with you all here. I have always, always, always tried to be respectful of others. I have always tried to be considerate of the feelings of others, of the places they come from in their lives that shape their views. I have not censored comments here or on my Facebook page. I could, certainly. I don't. I don't believe in it.
In a system such as ours, we need different approaches. We need different opinions. We need to surround ourselves with those who think about things in another way, or we are doomed. The only way to grow and evolve, as individuals and as a society, is to be to tolerant of those who are not like us.
We need to embrace diversity, not just of skin color and language and food and traditions, but of religion and politics as well. We need to exercise tolerance and restraint and patience and understanding.
We need to walk the walk.
I've been appalled today that those people who are the most vocal about their own opinions seem the most intolerant of others who speak out. That those who pride themselves on the strength of their convictions are so quick to condemn and judge others for theirs.
Think twice before you comment. Think twice before you post that picture making unfounded accusations. Think twice before you choose words that will be divisive and hurtful. Think twice before judging others. Certainly, think twice before calling on others to go silent in their opinions, even as you voice yours.
This goes for everyone. Those who voted for Obama, those who voted for Romney, those who voted for the other candidates who have been unfairly marginalized by our broken system.
Respect others, respect yourselves.
We are one nation. One beautiful, diverse nation.
We should act like it.
Let's get on with our normal lives.
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