I have been thinking a lot about the election this year, and for the past couple nights, I have been dreaming about it – so I knew it was time to write. My mind has been going back and forth on so many aspects of the election (to note, I have known from day one that I’m voting for Hillary). But there have been days where I’m hopeful, days where I’m scared, days where I’m apologetic, and days where I’m apathetic.
The one thought that keeps coming to the surface is the divisiveness of this election and the impact it is having on our everyday lives. I’ll start with a story. Starting in June, I was on crutches for 16 weeks. This meant that I had to take a lot of taxis around New York City. During nearly every ride, the driver would bring up Trump. We would find solace together and end the conversation with, ‘I hope he doesn’t win. Go Hillary’! Yet, one day on my morning commute, my driver and I began to talk. He was asking about my crutches, and was telling me about the 5+ surgeries that his wife has had since moving to the U.S. from Bangladesh. Then, with about 20 minutes left in the ride, he told me he was voting for Trump. I took a moment to collect my thoughts before responding, and then I politely said, ‘could you tell me why? I’m very curious’. He began to speak about his life in Bangladesh, which was built on real fear of terrorists for much of it. The way Trump spoke about ISIS spoke to him. He noted, ‘I think he’s a terrible person, but I need him to help my family back home.’ Then he asked me what I thought. I gently and confidently explained why I thought that it was actually Hillary who had a better chance of defeating ISIS. I could tell he heard me, but wasn’t convinced. So, I decided to talk to him about women. I pointed out the fact that since he has a wife and daughters, that it was in his best interest to think about Trump as a person and what that meant for his candidacy. I shared personal stories and continued to ask him questions along the way. We talked for the next ten minutes, and as we pulled up to my final destination, he said, ‘You’ve really given me a lot to think about. I think I need to consider both options.’
I am not sure whether my cab driver will vote for Hillary of Trump come Tuesday, but I do know that there is at least a better likelihood that he will vote for Hillary and I feel good about that. What I also know, is that if I had shut the conversation down right away by refusing to talk to him or not having an actual dialogue, he would definitely be voting for Trump. In the age of social media, we are quick to de-friend those who do not share our political views, quick to judge based on comments we see, and slow to use the platform to spark meaningful offline conversations. That is what scares me most about the election.
It is so easy to quickly disparage differing views on the world, whether it relates to politics, religion, or some other hot button topic. And with social media, this has become even more prevalent. We must take our conversations offline and must be willing to see and respect other viewpoints. We must ask questions, honor different life experiences that have led to certain opinions, and use dialogue as a means to make change. If we only surround ourselves with people who have our same viewpoint on the world, we’ll never make any really progress towards social change. And, dare I say, that’s exactly what Trump wants.
What happens when we ask questions, open dialogue, and the other person just won’t budge? Then we share our opinion, and let it go. We cannot change the experiences of others, and we most often cannot change how they see the world – for instance, could a Trump supporter convince me of him being the best candidate? No. But I would respect the person if they really tried in a productive manner. I might even get to know the person a little better in the process. And in the end, I might convince them why they should vote for Hillary. And if not, I would let it go, honor their reasoning even though I disagreed, and think about other ways that I could create the change I so believe in.
Whatever happens on Tuesday, let’s come together as friends, family, and strangers. Let’s not forget our shared humanity, and the wonderful things that can happen when we come together through shared and open dialogue. Let’s talk about how for the next four years we can create a country that is not so divided, and let’s create a more equitable, just, and kind society for all of us to live in. Let’s come together, and just love one another. I’ll end with the wise words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
And finally, just as a reminder. #imwithher.