Your vote doesn’t show your values, it shows your candidate’s.
This year, more than ever, your bubbled ink dot on a paper ballot (or button press on a electronic console) was a public statement to the world — that you supported a candidate for both their policy and their platform.
If this election had been exclusively about policy, then this election wouldn’t have been stressful and divisive. If this election had been exclusively about policy, we would not be subjected to seeing a constant stream of social media posts about the celebration and criticism of the election.
If this election had been exclusively about policy, and only policy, various world governments would not be scrutinizing America for the outcome of this election.
Unfortunately for us all, this election was not just about policy. It included platforms with rhetoric and a large list of past grievances for both of the presidential candidates.
Right now, you probably have hundreds of reaction posts appearing in your Facebook wall or Twitter feed. You’re probably recognizing a lot of news articles that forecast a negative picture about the future of this country. You’re probably noticing that the “losers” of this election — the popular vote winners — are being incredibly harsh to the “winners” of this election — the electoral college vote winners.
You’re probably noticing a lot of hate. Some of you may even be the targets of social media posts.
You probably want healing. But there is a sad truth.
Healing is not going to come any time soon. Both sides are afraid of each other.
You need to know that your vote was a public statement, and it wasn’t truly yours.
If you voted for a candidate whose platform included racially charged comments, religious exclusion, sex/gender/minority/immigrant marginalization — even if you personally disagree with some (or all) parts of that platform, your ink dot next to that candidate means that you supported that platform and everything included with it.
Likewise, if you voted for a candidate whose campaign included heavily criticized scandal, whose record of abroad military engagements have been very rocky, who has flip-flopped multiple times on various pieces of legislation — even if you personally disagree with some (or all) parts of that campaign, your ink dot next to that candidate means you’ve supported that campaign and everything included with it.
Your vote means that you forgave all of the bad things of your candidate. Whether you wanted it or not, your vote waived your personal values, and replaced them with your candidate’s public values.
If you voted Hillary in this election, everyone thinks your personal values align with hers (and to be fair, hers and yours are probably the same/very similar).
If you voted Trump in this election, everyone thinks your personal values align with his (even if you aren’t a bigot/racist/misogynist/homophobe/xenophobe).
The impression is what matters.
People need to recognize this objective truth in political conversation. Being unaware of this fact is the cause of the division that is tearing apart our friendships and families. It’s the source of fear for both parties: Democrats (particularly the marginalized groups) are upset that Republicans will take away their rights and that extremists will be violent towards them; and Republicans are upset that Democrats are currently being hateful and violent towards them, and becoming the extremists themselves.
Trump supporters shouldn’t be afraid of their Democratic neighbors, but they absolutely have every right to be upset at violent outbursts caused by the losers. Despite this, make no mistake; having Trump as president, despite what he has said, does NOT make sexual harassment/assault, religious discrimination, or racism okay. Ever.
The marginalized people of America — the victims of Trump’s rhetoric — have every right to be angry. They fear for a future where the government takes away their rights, which has been continually promised (and disguised as progress) by the Trump campaign. But this does not make violence okay.
To all the Trump voters that are NOT bigots/racists/anti-LGBTQA+, you now have a responsibility to clarify your stance to the world that you are not a bigot/a racist/an anti-LGBTQA+ individual (because if you don’t, the half of America who leans left can only believe that you are one). You have to promise that you will support your fellow, fearful, marginalized Americans and that you will fight against inequality when it comes to them.
To the Hillary supporters that have lost this election; a loss gives you the right to complain, not the right to attack or damage individuals/property. You can come to terms with healing once the other half has acknowledged they will support you, but you must not stoop so low as to resort to violence. Acknowledge that you might eventually find an ally in someone who voted for Trump (because they will make themselves known soon and defend your rights).
This election was not clear cut black-and-white. It wasn’t even red and blue. Just like all elections before it, it was a huge mix of purple.
We live together, here, in America. Until everyone is on the same page and empathizes with their “opponents”, we won’t be able to heal. We should not be living in fear and hatred of each other for the next four, or eight, or maybe even fourteen (gerrymandered) years.
If you voted Trump, protect and show your support of the blue half. If you voted Hillary, keep fighting for the future that ensures your rights together with the red half. Share your beliefs, share your fears, share your disappointment, share your love. If we don’t, we can’t heal. If we can’t heal, we can’t be unafraid.
We all want a future without fear.