By Sara Karlovitch
There has been a lot of name calling over the last election cycle. From Donald Trump calling Hillary Clinton a “nasty women” and “crooked Hillary” to Clinton’s now infamous “basket of deplorables” utterance, the two sides of the political spectrum have not been very nice to one another.
The 2016 election was made up of a barrage of low shots and eye-for-an-eye mentality.
For both sides, the 2016 election was not a political debate, but a war between good and evil with both sides viewing the other candidate as the antichrist. Not just the candidates but their supporters, too, were reduced to vicious name calling. Clinton voters were more than willing to throw around “racist,” “sexist” and “xenophobic” when talking about Trump voters. On the other hand, Trump voters were more than happy to call Clinton voters “brain-washed East Coast educated snowflakes.”
As someone who has been on both the giving and receiving ends of this tirade, I know how uninformed and ignorant these labels are. I always tried to convince myself that not all Trump voters were horrible people. Yet every time I saw a “Make America Great Again!” hat or a “Build that Wall” sign, hatred would flare up in the pit of my stomach.
So that’s why I decided to wake myself up at 5 a.m. on Jan. 20 and actually interact with some Trump voters to make them human in my brain. Though I was originally planning to boycott the inauguration, I knew going was the only way I was going to be able to make peace with the election results. I also couldn’t pass up the chance to catch a glimpse of my biggest heroes, like the Obamas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Hillary Clinton, even if just from a distance.
I was lucky enough to score blue section tickets (which is really close to the balcony where the president is inaugurated) through a friend. For what was probably the first time in my life, I was outnumbered by Trump supporters.
It was a surreal and overwhelming experience. I initially tried standing in my own little bubble, deciding to just observe their enthusiasm. However, as the hours of waiting slowly passed, I found myself talking to them, having a civilized conversation. They were, in the simplest terms, friendly.
I made the conscious choice to keep my political identity hidden for the day (after taking a picture wearing my Hillary button, of course) and be a neutral party. I talked to three women from Canada on their first trip to the capital. A man in a “Make America Great Again!” hat wanted to make sure I could see. I was finally able to put a real person inside those red hats.\
— Sara Karlovitch (@Sara_Karlo7) January 20, 2017
I was actually, against all odds, starting to enjoy my company. I was there for the same reason they were: to celebrate our democracy, look to the future and catch a glimpse of our heroes.
This bliss however, would not last.
The bigotry and hate America saw nightly on CNN manifested itself. Sen. Chuck Schumer, who gave a beautiful speech about inclusion and diversity, was met with boos and hostility. I was unable to hear parts of the speech even with the huge loud speakers due to chants of “Drain the Swamp!” I was disgusted that people didn’t even have an interest in hearing what he was saying.
I once again felt superior, the word “bigots” forming on my tongue. Then I heard the protests on the other side of the fence. Thousands gathered screaming and blowing whistles to try and drown out President Trump’s speech. Like the Trump supporters, the protesters had no interest in even listening.
I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed to be a human being. We have spent the last two years yelling at each other and not listening to one another. Both sides have become so wrapped up in their own personal bubbles that we can’t even listen to our leaders — whether we like them or not — speak. How are we ever supposed to govern, to lead, if we can’t listen?
This country will never be great until we can look our neighbors in the eye, listen to them speak without interrupting and say, “I may not agree with you, but I understand you.”
We are allowed to be upset; both sides are allowed to voice our discontent. But until we listen, until we try to understand, we will not be standing for change at all, we’ll just be shouting.
Featured Photo Credit: Feature photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore on Flickr.
Sara Karlovitch is a freshman journalism and government and politics major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.