It appears that we are a nation divided. That much seems obvious when reviewing election results. Two candidates, two parties, two people. So who are these two peoples? The categories we currently use don’t seem adequate or even appropriate. Let me suggest some that don’t work.
Trump supporters and Hilary supporters
Liberals and conservatives
Urban and rural
Republicans and Democrats
They all fail because they are too discreet. They seem to push people into categories that are not a good fit. One may be a Democrat who voted for Trump. One may be a rural Democrat.
So I want to suggest two categories that I find helpful right now. And I will unpack each just a bit so you understand what I am seeking to express. Here are my categories.
Fearful and Pessimistic
Fearful. I see these folks all over the political landscape. They are fearful of a future with little promise of improvement for them. This in turn leads to fear of those who may be perceived as responsible. Among these are Mexicans and other immigrants, who are perceived as taking jobs away and draining benefits from the system. Also Muslims, who are threatening our sense of safety and security. Non whites are seen as remaking our society with diversity so that the past hegemony is fading. Now these folks might not describe themselves as fearful. To the contrary, they may see themselves as bold asserters of values and policies that will Make America Great Again. But under that bluster of superiority, I see folks who are unsure, afraid and needing help and encouragement. They may have no intention of hurting anyone else. They just want to feel OK and they don’t . So they have become a movement in our nation; a movement that will address their fears but whose methods and solutions are had at the expense of others. Surely there must be a better way to help the fearful.
Pessimistic. These are the folks who were deeply disappointed by the results of this election. They have fallen into a deep funk. Some are protesting and promising to organize resistance. Others have given in to resignation and cynicism. The nation is divided. They see themselves as the ones with the right values and solutions, and they feel rejected by a nation that chose another way for now. They want things to be better, but they cannot seem to present solutions with enough broad appeal, and the election hit them hard. They tend to be quite judgmental toward the fearful. But they too need compassion and understanding, because it isn’t working for them either.
Fearful vs. Pessimistic. Neither is particularly attractive because neither is inclusive enough to encompass the other’s perspective. If we met an individual who was fearful, we would want to reassure and offer help. We also might want to take away their guns. Fear and guns are a dangerous dynamic. If we met an individual who was pessimistic, we would likewise try to offer encouragement and hope. We might also relieve them of decisions about redistribution of resources. Pessimism and resignation can lead to reckless abandon since the future is beyond repair.
So wherever we find ourselves today, we are deserving of some understanding and forbearance. We see ourselves in the other and discover we are not so very different. We all hope for a better tomorrow. We have differing opinions on what happened and what needs to happen. But we all agree something needs to happen.
As we journey forward from now as two people and one nation, it is too easy to condemn and too convenient to avoid self examination. Neither side is all right or all wrong. We are still trying to get this right. As two people, let’s not lose the deeper reality that we are also one nation.