How You can make Donald Trump’s election the greatest turning point in history

I am a Canadian-American dual citizen, and I live in Canada in a college town, which puts me squarely in the middle of what Americans would call a progressive liberal social sphere. Virtually every single opinion that I absorb, both in real life and through social media, is aligned with that perspective.

I have found it hard, in the few days since the election, to interact normally with people. I haven’t felt much like laughing, or even smiling to say hello. I have seen the same all around me. I am greatly saddened by the triumph of hate and fear over logic and empathy. Most importantly, under the new president, catastrophic climate change is all but guaranteed. The next 4 years are crucial, because digging up any more fossil fuels will push us over the edge. I am terrified – not for our planet, but for us. The planet will survive as we choke ourselves. We cannot deal with the other important issues if our society collapses with the climate.

Looking back on the election, it seems like a lot of people did not care. Nearly half of eligible voters chose not to vote. In fact, less voted than in the last presidential election. Why didn’t people care? Maybe they didn’t believe this would happen, they thought enough other people would vote, they were let down by the choices, they didn’t want to vote for someone who they didn’t believe in. Perhaps the election was an example of the classic trolley problem. Perhaps there are more reasons.

The biggest issue that I’ve seen is that all sides are stuck in their bubbles of perception. My bubble did not realize that large swaths of people do not consider climate change, LGBTQ rights, women’s safety, or racism as an issue at all when voting. They vote purely for what they believe is the survival of their families, and normal politicians have always screwed them over, from their point of view. How can these people even attempt to empathize with other issues when they live paycheck-to-paycheck? That is something that only the more fortunate can do.

Unfortunately, human tendency is to ignore all these differences in perception. We want to be liked, and so we don’t want to upset other people. We keep our opinions to ourselves. We run away from the taboo topics: politics, religion, abortion. Less than 1 in 10 people post about politics on Facebook. The ideological opinions and news that we do see online is heavily filtered by Facebook algorithms, which curate our news feeds so that we almost exclusively see ideas that we already agree with anyway. Yet it has been shown that these algorithms only act out our wishes – they show us the type of content that we engage with. If you don’t engage with other peoples’ viewpoints, it won’t show you them.

We are simply too afraid to discuss the most important topics, and share cat videos instead. I strongly believe that this is the root of the great political chasm that has ripped America apart.

And yet… in the past few days I have seen, for the first time, an unprecedented amount of passion about politics.

Every single Facebook post, every single in-person conversation is a passionate monologue, a dialogue, a fight about politics. I have seen boundless amounts of grief, sorrow, shock, and fear, with a few bursts of joy. I have also seen a lot of empathy and forgiveness of others’ beliefs. The important thing is that, now that the results are in, everyone cares. Everyone cares enough to voice their opinion, and to put themselves out there.

I am terrified for the world. I am terrified for minorities, for refugees, for the LGBTQ community, for women, for the environment. At the same time, the aftermath of this election is a tremendous opportunity for the world to wake up and engage itself.

My only hope is that the shock of this election becomes a turning point that will get people to not only care about important issues, but to be active and discuss them.

It is time for the world to grow up and to learn how to comfortably swap, debate, and argue in a respectful and truth-seeking manner. To learn how to properly convince someone of an opposing viewpoint without alienating them. To learn how to become more open to new ideas and opposing viewpoints. To realize that the real winner of any argument is the loser, because the loser gains a whole new perspective on life. To realize that people who are unafraid to voice strong opinions and unafraid to admit when they are wrong are respected, not shunned.

And so, it is time for You to take responsibility as a citizen of this planet. To make your voice heard and reach out and share your opinions and dare to disagree. To open a calm and truth-seeking discussion when someone mentions views that oppose yours. And to celebrate conflict for what it truly is: an opportunity to elevate your perception and the perception of others.

If we can come together and do this, Trump will have won the election, but the human species will have won its voice.

Advertisements