in me·di·as res (adverb)
in ˈmēdēəs ˈres,ˈmādēˌäs/
into the middle of a narrative; without preamble.
Not the Beginning, Not the End
As a 24-year old who has only voted in one major election prior to 2016, I recently returned from six months of travel to a homeland distraught and divided over the upcoming election. I was and am excited to have been a part of such a historic time in history, but I was less than impressed with the childish and exaggerated discourse between both the candidates and the voters this year. And even today, after the constituents have cast their votes and our 45th president has been elected, the chaos in the United States ensues.
It may appear that the election is over, but our nation is nowhere near settling its disputes. We find ourselves once again with a vote count that leaves an almost dead even split between candidates, and for the second time in sixteen years the popular vote is different from the electoral vote. The outcome of the election can be called neither a total tragedy nor a total success because the fact remains that our nation is almost completely divided on some very fundamental values. Whether you are proud of the outcome or distraught by it, we cannot accept that this is the end of the conversation. We are in the midst of challenging time for the American people and great change is necessary in order to prevent such drastic divisions from happening again.
I acknowledge that there has been a very clear and present media bias throughout this election as well as a whole lot of sensationalism used in the majority of news sources that have perpetuated this madness. And I believe that the media has negatively pushed us to the extremes that our now divided nation finds itself in today. But I will not accept that this divide between the American people is solely a product of Facebook rants and NBC and Fox News, because we are the audience that is greedily taking in this overhyped information with open arms. We may be a long way from a mass media revolution, but that does not mean we can’t target the problem that current media is perpetuating.
There is a more crippling bias that exists inherent in every person on the earth: the one that comes from being who you are. And even after lifetimes of trying to understand and accept each other, we still find ourselves divided by values that directly correlate with certain groups and identities of people. How can we avoid bias when it is the product of our own minds? How can we begin to understand one another and see from alternate perspectives when we are only able to physically experience the world through one set of eyes? If we are all separate bodies living our own separate lives, how can we begin to educate ourselves on the experiences of others? If we cannot place ourselves in other shoes physically, can we do so emotionally, and how?
What we are lacking as a unified people is a unified perspective. I believe that we can achieve close to this, but that it will take real effort. It will take many of us having to change the worldviews that we have held our entire lives. It will take an amount of self-awareness that is difficult both to face and to maintain. It will take sacrificing our daily comforts and questioning our fundamental values. It will take motivation, dedication, empathy, open-mindedness, and yes, change. Then eventually, hopefully, we will reach understanding.
That being said, I am attempting to write this with the least amount of bias possible.
Let’s Start Now, Right In the Middle
For us to unify our minds we must first take the time to understand history as it has led us to the differing mentalities we find ourselves experiencing today. We must ask the questions that are answered by the patterns that got us here, because in the pattern lies understanding. If we listen to each other’s stories, each other’s reasoning, each other’s heartaches and each other’s desires, we may find ourselves experiencing this feeling of understanding, that aha moment that happens when you finally learn something for yourself and you realize that it is okay, and beneficial, to question what you think you know.
I see the value in checking your privilege as it calls to attention the things we are not consciously aware of about ourselves. The point is not to accuse yourself of being ignorant and wrong your whole life thus fur, but to accept that you are not perfect and do your best to be a better person in the future because of what you continue to learn about other people.
I am a woman. This I can speak of confidentially as my perspective as a woman allows me to experience firsthand both the struggles and privileges of being a woman.
I am white. I am also privileged to experience firsthand the struggles and privileges of being a white person.
Who am I to say from my perspective what it feels like to be a black man or a Muslim at a time where such identities are facing outward discrimination? As a woman who promotes feminism, I do understand that what women want is to be paid and treated equally to others. From my distant perspective I can only assume that what black people and Muslims want is also to be treated equally to everyone else.
Maybe because I am a woman I am privileged with the ability to empathize with such a situation. When basic human rights are being infringed upon because of physical or sociological identities, it seems obvious to me that laws should be put into place to ensure equality on all accounts. But I am writing this based on my point of view outside of the situation and I do not claim to know what it is like to experience much of this discrimination firsthand.
It would be biased if I did not contemplate that there are also certain struggles that middle class and blue-collar white voters are facing as well. These people, who successfully elected our next president into office, supported a set of policies and values that paved Donald Trump’s path to the White House. And instead of bashing them for holding such opinions that are different from your own, try to find out why their opinions are different and understand what makes these issues such a high priority for such a large portion of Americans.
I hypothesize that many voters that took part in this critical election were facing a privilege catch 22 similar to this, a state of confusion from being caught between personal identity and socio-economic status and moral value. My thought is that Trump voters are not all racists and sexists and all the ‘ists’ that they are being called, and Hilary supporters are not all radical leftists looking for free college and hoarding illegal immigrants, but that we Americans are simply and rightfully stuck between conflicting priorities. It seems that many voters felt forced to put aside their social views to protect their economic assets and vice versa, and I am sure that many voters sacrificed their values in one way or another when choosing their priorities in this election.
We seem to be at time in history when many laws and policies created to protect some people are in ways infringing on the rights and freedoms of others. And many social movements starting out from a peaceful place are having negative effects or being reacted to in non-peaceful ways. I think that these conundrums exist on all sides of the political spectrum, and no matter if you are a Republican or a Democrat or other, we need to recognize that there are multiple sides to each story. And we need to find out why.
So, What Do We Do Now?
During this election I have seen that people of many backgrounds and with diverse histories are asking for the nation to understand their previous and present struggles. As a student, I learned in my American history class that these struggles are what have made our nation the great melting pot and world power that it is today. I was taught that we studied our country’s past so that we could better our country’s future.
I believe that we need to study each other’s pasts as well. We need to educate each other and put in the effort to learn about other perspectives so that we can make rational judgments. I look to the past and I fear that many American people are regressing. I wonder how we can still be making the same mistakes when we have an entire history to look back on. I know that we have to move forward, not backward, and that to do so we must become aware of our precarious place right now in the middle of our own history.
But when you start in the middle of things when things are this chaotic, you will find yourself quickly overwhelmed. You will realize that at moments like this, the past is as equally important as the present, and that we somehow have to organize our next moves very carefully in order to bring ourselves to a more stable future. But trying to find order in the chaos of our political system is like trying to find an eastern elk in Yellowstone. It’s not going to be there anymore.
In order to organize our democracy to best provide for the American people, I believe that we need to make changes as individuals and then the political system will follow suit. Perhaps it will soon be time to revamp our electorate to better fit modern times so that America’s freedoms don’t go extinct like its wildlife. But I do not think the whole of the population is in the mindset just yet, and trying to change the outcome of the current election would be a regression of its own kind. Half of the constituents in this nation may agree with this new vision, but it remains clear that the other half is not quite there yet. And we have to continue working proactively to target future problems, not perpetuate our current disagreements.
Where we are is right here, right now. And we have the spectacular opportunity to adapt and grow along with our country. And we have the opportunity to do so together.
I am not claiming to have the solution to the divide among American people. I am far from understanding how to make our country great again or greater or if it was ever not great in the first place. I am simply trying to find the unified perspective needed to create equality for all peoples without infringing on anyone’s rights. I may not be there yet, but I am questioning myself and doing my best to become educated on the experiences of people that are different than me. This is the best that I can do and this is the best that we can all do.
Take a look at history. Take on a new perspective. Put in the effort to find the why that makes us all unique, the reasoning behind why people feel and act the way they do. Because when we see that we are all different, we will see that we are always going to be different, and then we can understand each other and work together to best accommodate these differences.