To the Hillary supporters currently looking down on the Bernie or Bust crowd. To the Bernie supporters who are “swallowing their pride” and voting for the “lesser evil” as if they are doing a service and saving their country. Do me a favor, grab the nearest six foot pole, and shove it promptly up your asses.
Feel like reading further? Think you can withhold your judgment and refrain from bias? Do you think you can proceed from here? If your answer is no, congratulations! Allow me to introduce you to the novel concept of a wall. It’s something that is used to other you so that understanding cannot be achieved. Can you see where I’m going with this?
Let me be frank. I hate this election with a passion. I don’t want to see any of our two primary candidates at the head of this country. I voted Bernie. I’ve made my political feelings known. But I’m not writing this for me. I am writing this for the countless number of people currently giving the Bernie or Bust supporters shit in their time of grief. Yes, grief. Take a moment to consider just what the Bernie crowd is going through, would you?
Largely a young group, Bernie’s supporters were filled with a number of millennials becoming political for the first time in their lives. Imagine that first socially fueled fire as you find this presidential candidate who speaks not just to the crowds but to you, personally, as an individual. He makes you feel like you matter, that no matter how little your part or how small a contribution you make, your money, your voice, your vote, your story- YOU- matter. He drives you to vote, to volunteer, to protest, to act and speak based on your values. You dedicate countless hours amplifying his voice because it feels like yours. You hold out hope until the bitter end, knowing the system is against you, because you want to matter. You want someone who matters to you, who acts like you matter to him, to step up and achieve his goals.
But he doesn’t get to make it. And just before it’s official, the system’s corruption is revealed in black and white as the bias that squelched out your voice and ignored you is revealed. You realize you don’t matter. Your vote didn’t change anything. Your voice was a tree falling in a forest with no one to hear. You didn’t matter. And suddenly, in a crowded room of people you once felt safe with, you find yourself feeling unwanted. The slight against you is treated like a little accident. You are looked down on. You’re told you’re ridiculous. That if you don’t take what you’re given, you may as well choose to eat shit. No sympathy, no kind words extended for your efforts, just ridicule and judgment. You are not welcome here.
This is the experience that is being ignored. The sympathy that these people need, the empathy that needs to be shared with them, is cast aside in a rush to try and take out the bad guy. Instead of taking the time to listen to the ones that are being left behind, instead of remembering how painful it is to recover from exhausting so much hope and effort into something that results in nothing, we cast out the “losers” because they bring us down.
Would you like to know what the bad guy does? Do we really need to be reminded? The bad guy swoops in and speaks to the fears of the mass. Fear is a feeling, and when your feelings are acknowledged, you start to feel like you mean something. You start to matter. The bad guy calls for walls to be built to “protect” us from the ones that make us feel unsafe. Unwanted. The bad guy uses divisive language to keep those walls in tact, so that even when the barrier is not physical, the divide between “us” and “them” is clear and distinct. The bad guy casts aside “losers.”
Here’s the truth. The bad guy has already won. Because he has managed to monger enough fear to strip us of the humanity needed to unite against him. He doesn’t need to become President to win. He just needs to keep the fracture going. He just has to make sure that enough people hate him to neglect their fellows, and frankly, he doesn’t even need to do any work to do that. We do it to ourselves. Because the honest truth is that we’re just as much the bad guy as he is.
Stop building walls. Stop othering your fellow human beings simply because you do not agree. Stop ostracizing people who are different from you because you believe they are wrong. Belittling them, treating them like children, simply saying they’re wrong and calling them names, will never make them understand what you have to say. Stop the divisive rhetoric. Stop the binary ultimatums. Stop acting out against each other because you’re scared of the bad guy or angry at injustice or offended by someone’s perspective.
If you really want someone to understand, if your goal is to get someone to listen to you, then stop. And ask questions. Ask them how they feel. Ask them why they feel that way. Ask them if they’d like to talk. Ask them what made them come to the conclusions that make them believe what they do. Listen to their answers. Find something that you can understand in what they have to say. Build a bridge on that one thing that you can understand, too, no matter how small, and meet halfway as you try to explain how you feel and what you think.
Maybe they won’t change their mind, but the bridge will be there. And for an instant, they will feel like they mattered enough to you to be heard. And there will be no walls.