This election cycle has been nothing if not insane. Last year I taught a 7th grade AVID class that morphed into a PoliSci class midyear as it became abundantly clear that my students wanted to talk about the Election. I figured that if that's what they were interested in then that's what we would talk about. It was incredibly interesting to me to get their perspective on it. They are not voters, not yet, but their life experiences have given them a unique view on this years candidates. At least half of my class were students who are not from the US... some were from countries like Cuba, others are refugees from African countries, most have lived through things that I can't even imagine. Our move from AVID to PoliSci came quickly, as Trump said things that scared them they began to ask questions. One Muslim student asked if she were going to be kicked out of the US. Another student asked if they'd have to move to camps.
I'lll admit that I underestimated Trump. I thought it was all for show and that he had no intention of actually being a the Republican Candidate. I said to my students early on that he was really good at selling himself, he was a great showman, but that he wouldn't ever be a serious candidate. I'm the first to admit I was wrong. The things he said seemed like such a small thing, they seemed like things that you say, but couldn't really ever act on. Trump could say that we were banning all the Muslims, but he couldn't really do it. It was bluster. It was a headline. For my students though, it was a reminder of a life they've already lived. Those words were linked to things they've already experienced. As cliche as it sounds, I was learning more from my students then I was teaching them. Sure I taught them about the process, about debates and the electoral college, about how primaries and caucuses were run and how the road to the White House would unfold. They taught me about how words can instill fear, how words can give people the power to act out and how elections effect more then the people who vote. I looked forward to our conversations every day, and I miss them now that my class has moved on to 8th grade and we only see each other passing in the hall or when they get a minute to come to the library and say hi.
Just because the class is over, doesn't mean that I'm not thinking about this election. How could you not? It''s everywhere. Plus I really like politics, I like watching debates and reading the coverage. I'm not a Clinton fan. I don't think she will make a good president. Still... Trump is an actual horrible human being. The fact that he has made it this far is a astounding to me. But here we are, and I'm left wondering about what exactly is happening in our country right now.
Which brings me to what prompted this post. It's been a long time coming, but I couldn't quite figure out the right words or tone. Until Facebook delivered me with the answer.
A few days ago a friend posted the video of Michelle Obama taking Donald Trump to task over his comments to Billy Bush. You know the ones, where he bragged about sexual assault. The post was made public instead of just to her friends and what happened in the comments of her post is a perfect example of how vitriolic and polarizing this election season has become.
If you haven't seen the speech yet, give it a look and then meet me back here. I have thoughts.
What ensued in the comments was mind-blowing, although it shouldn't have been. Complete strangers lashed out at my friends simply because they disagreed with her original sentiment agreeing with Obama and voicing her distaste for Trump and the people who are backing him. Let me be clear- it's her page, her opinion and it was made without insulting anyone... and yet, strangers felt some weird compulsive need to spew hate. People were so angry, and several comments really hammered home what is different about this election season. People say that what's happening is just politics, but it's not. It's about values and seeing people whose values align with yours in a place to lead this country and being terrified that someone whose values you can not accept might win the election.
At first I just followed along on the post- watching people try to defend their positions, reading along as people tried to make the point that this isn't just about politics, and eventually I decided to wade into the fray and comment. Here is what I said.
"I'd like to show a different perspective- hopefully I can make it in a way that makes sense. I'm glad that we have a race between Hillary and Trump- I think it has gotten more people involved in the issues then ever before- I see especially with my students, who generally couldn't care less about politics. Since last January they have been fired up, they are interested, they are watching the news, watching the debates and talking about it at school. They are thinking and making choices for themselves. They are involved.
Yes, Trump is a vile, hateful man and his some of his followers are reprehensible. But they didn't just happen when Trump decided to run- they've always been here. Hateful people have always been here. Hillary didn't invent lying in politics. It's always happened. Only now- with these two polarizing candidates suddenly we are seeing it so clearly- it's sprayed across our screens and people are showing their true colors. We always knew that there were horrible misogynists out there who would "grab us by the pussy" if they could. We knew that politicians felt like the rules didn't apply to them. And now we see them so clearly.
Now though, instead of turning a blind eye, we are talking about it. We are yelling from the roof tops about it. Instead of just letting it happen in the background, now we are ready to make a change. To stop letting people treat each other this way. There are people who feel emboldened by Trumps rhetoric, who hear his hateful language and think "Me too", but there are just as many who hear it, who watch the actions of the people who are violent in his name and think "No. We will not let ourselves be consumed by hate and anger. We will defend each other and make sure that we create peace." It's time that we stopped pretending that hate and violence doesn't exist and instead do something about it. Trump has shown a light on it by being such a vocal example of everything that is wrong right now. So now we have to stand together and make sure that he doesn't win. That his brand of hate doesn't become the norm.
I wish that the fate of the nation didn't hang in the balance, but if there is a silver lining, it's that people are involved and that we are seeing people for who they are and can make informed choices."
For me this has been an amazingly interesting political season. Issues that are normally just talking points are coming to the forefront and people beyond the candidates are weighing in and making it their business too. Trump and Hillary might be the ones running, but everyone has an opinion. Some of these opinions are terrifying to me. For instance- the fact that people are defending Trumps assertion that he can just "Grab them by the pussy" when trying to get a girl is disgusting. That's assault and it goes to show how deeply rooted the rape culture is in the US. Still... were we talking this openly about the rape culture 2 weeks ago? Women are sharing their stories online about the first time they were assaulted, people are talking openly about why we don't report and for the first time in a long time there is no shame. Instead people are joining together to show why what Trump said is so wrong. And that's just the most recent issue.
There are people that hate Trump and there are people who hate Hillary. Everyone has to decide for themselves who they will vote for. I've seen friendships end over this election. Someone on that Facebook thread said something along the lines of they can't believe anyone would stop being friends with someone just because they are voting Trump. A few replies floated in and they all said the same basic thing. It's not about someone supporting Trump the person. It's that someone supports the values that he espouses. My friend Sara said it best, and I'll just quote her here instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. "The thing that gets me about this post, is the people that don't realize that's it's not about unfriending someone over politics, it's about unfriending someone who supports a person who doesn't know what it means to be a compassionate human being. It's about not wanting to be friends with someone who thinks it's okay to make fun or the disabled or talk about women in a degrading way." and she's right.
It's not about politics, it's about supporting someone who represents you. The fact that so many people see themselves in Trump speaks volumes about the issues we have in our country right now. I can't hate people for feeling that way. I'm sure they have their reasons. If I wan't someone to respect my right to back a candidate of my choice, then I have to allow that they can back theirs. I will however work to make sure that Trump doesn't become president in whatever small way I can. I don't like Hillary, but I can't even for one second back someone like Trump, who spews hate at so many people. Who seems to lack the basics of compassion and respect. If I think that Trumps actions or words are hurtful (and they are hurtful) I will do what I can to speak out against them and more importantly to me, I will continue to support the people who they hurt, especially my students.
I will also continue to be grateful for this election and these two candidates... hate was not invented by Donald Trump, and Hillary is not the first politician to lie. My silver lining is that we are talking about things that for so long were dealt with in the shadows. People are fired up and ready to fight for what they believe in instead of just letting the process work the way it always has and I can't wait to see what happens next. Hopefully we emerge stronger and ready to tackle the issues and show the world what makes America great.
Home of the ramblings of an avid reader. In my spare time I also run, ride, teach, go on adventures and get into shenanigans.
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