I value you whether or not you value me, and other thoughts post-US election

I’ve tried to write this post so many times before and after the US presidential election, and every time it becomes way too long, or I get way too exhausted writing it, or I’m interrupted and don’t get back to it. But it’s really important to me to say this, so I’ve tried writing one or two versions of this post at least once a day since the election.

In the process, I’ve realized there’s no succinct way for me to properly explain all of my thoughts on this. Not with proper context. So I’m going to just try to say what I feel, knowing that it will be long, knowing it may be a bit confusing, knowing that people may misinterpret it in their emotional state. Please let me know if you want me to expand on anything. And if you don’t read further than this, then please be safe and happy in your own life. If you continue, know this:

For every single one of you, I welcome you, and you matter to me. And I mean every single one of you. I welcome and care about everyone regardless of their religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, disabilities, and more. It should be obvious from my blog and personality that I absolutely am including in that statement anyone who is a minority or whose voice isn’t usually heard–every demographic I have listed in the past and all of those I haven’t listed but still think about often. I love and support you all.

But I think it’s important to clarify that when I say everyone, I mean everyone.  If you are super conservative, if you voted for Trump or support him, if you are white, if you are male, if you are cis, if you are Christian, if you are anything that you sometimes see people on the far left ignore or dismiss, if you’re anything that’s more moderate, or anything else I’m not mentioning–I welcome you too. I love you too, because you are a fellow human being, and you may also be a fellow American.  I value you, whether or not you value me, because I don’t believe I can truly say I stand for tolerance and equality and kindness if I don’t do my best to always try to understand all viewpoints, even if I severely disagree with them. 

There is much, much more I have to say about this but I don’t want to overwhelm anyone’s dash so I’ve put it behind a cut. Please do click to read more, though, regardless of your political beliefs or lack thereof. I know this is long. I know. But I hope you find it in your heart to continue reading.

One thing I think it’s important to note with this election is I don’t think we can or should cast everyone as the absolute worst of whatever side they voted. I know many people who voted for Trump who are not racist, not sexist, not bigots, or more. They voted for Trump because they believed he was their best chance for a topic that was most important to them, and quite honestly most people I know who felt that way voted because of finances, or because they are so tired of this divisive system of right/left or the way the government is run, that they thought he was the best chance for mixing that up. They voted for him not because they liked him, but because he isn’t a politician. That is what I have heard from some.

Most of the people I know personally who voted for him are perfectly wonderful to me, even though I represent multiple aspects of what Trump spoke against. And they are perfectly wonderful to other people who represent other aspects. It’s incredibly upsetting to me that he won (more on that later) but his worst qualities and speeches do not represent just about any Trump voter I know in my personal life.

I also know or have heard of people who do like Trump. Who love him, even, and think he has done and said nothing wrong. There are Trump voters who do represent or sympathize with the worst parts of what he said and stands for, and do reflect all those terrible things within themselves.

There is no single sentence, in my mind, that you can say to summarize all 60 million+ people who voted for him because they are a varied group–and to pretend or accuse otherwise, in my mind, doesn’t make sense. Because we don’t like it if they paint all 60 million+ of us who voted for Hillary as the same. Because we aren’t all the same. We may have similar views but we are not all the exact same person with the exact same views on everything. The same goes for those who voted third party, or those who didn’t vote at all.

To those who believe everything Trump believes and who say what he says: If I am the sort of person who scares you because of who I am and how I was born, then I would like for you to stick around. I want you to have the opportunity to see that people like me are not a threat to you. I don’t know if the only people you have ever interacted with who represent my demographics have somehow behaved in a way that only reinforced your negative views, or if they behaved wonderfully but you simply could not find it in your heart to accept them.

I am not you, no matter who you are; whether you are the most extremist of the liberals, the most extremist of the conservatives, anyone in between, or not American or part of our political belief systems. I am not you, so I don’t know your life experiences, or what led to the views you have today.

What I am is me; someone who was raised on the Golden Rule to treat others the way I would wish to be treated. So I don’t feel right immediately judging and dismissing you for your views since I don’t want you immediately judging and dismissing me for mine.

You may have had experiences, or lack of experiences, that told you that this is the only way to feel. If those life experiences have led you to a moment in time where you can’t accept others because of their sexuality or gender identity or race or immigration status or religious beliefs or anything else–if you have fear or even hatred in your heart toward anyone of those demographics, I will not be someone who will add to that fear or hatred for you. You will have to find that justification or validation elsewhere.

I believe that the best way we can all come together as a nation is by opening our minds and our hearts to each other in civil conversations. It doesn’t mean we have to agree with each other on everything– I can guarantee you I will not agree with you if you say just about anything Trump ever said about anyone who isn’t a rich white male– but you may be surprised to learn the many ways our other views may actually be in alignment.

I know people from all political viewpoints, and on sliding scales of extremism, mostly in person and also a bit online. I am related to some people who believe so utterly differently from me that we will never agree on particular topics because what we care about is so vastly different. But I also can and do have pleasant conversations with everyone, regardless of their viewpoint, even if they think I shouldn’t exist as a human being, so long as they are willing to be open and willing to listen. And I will listen to them too.

No matter who you are and what your views are, I can’t and won’t tell you how to feel or what to do or say, because I’m not you. I don’t know your mental or psychological status. I don’t know what you need to do to protect yourself.

But I know me. I know that I’ve been depressed since the election; I know I’ve slept like shit, I continually wake up sad, I haven’t wanted to think about anything and I’ve been escaping by playing games on my phone.

To say that the election upset and distressed me would be an understatement. But to say that the election has the power to change me as a human being is utterly erroneous.

I may not be able to change the world, but that doesn’t mean I have to let the world change me. That’s what I believe, ultimately. I believe in believing in others. I believe in being open. For me personally, that has worked really well.

For others, they may be in a position where they just cannot do that without destroying themselves emotionally or psychologically because they are already so stressed just living. I understand. I wouldn’t want you to do anything harmful to yourself, either. But at the same time, I hope you take time away from the stressors as much as you can before you lash out at people who you feel represent the origin of that stress. I know there are many things to be legitimately very upset about, but they are also things that are unfortunately going to be an issue for quite some time going forward. Burning yourself out early will not help you nor your cause. And it will not help us all work together.

It’s important to note that there’s a huge distinction between understanding someone and agreeing with them; between acknowledging another viewpoint and normalizing it.

I am not saying any of the terrible things said or done on any side are okay. They aren’t. Frankly, I’m as upset about some of the things I’m seeing on the left as I am on the right.

But my view is this: we are never going to get anywhere if everyone exists solely in their own echo chambers. If they only rely on their own self-righteous feeling of moral superiority over other human beings and their views and their actions.

What I have learned over years of always being different from just about everyone around me, is that even if I go into a conversation with someone with the exact opposite view on the topic, we can be productive if we remain open-minded. If we start everything remembering the other person is a human being first, and everything else second. We may not agree on everything, but there are a surprising number of themes we can at least understand in one another.

As human beings, we have similar ranges of emotions; love, and fear, and protection, and worry, and more. The way we apply those emotions may differ dramatically, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be change.

I think I am a much stronger person today because I listen to people who believe differently than I do, because I challenge their viewpoints that I find to be incomplete or ignorant or questionable, but I also allow them to challenge my viewpoints where they think the same. I stand strong on my convictions of equality and loving other human beings and embracing other cultures and languages and more, but I also seek to understand why someone would not feel the same way and whether it’s possible to find a way to open them up to that possibility.

Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But I will try, because I believe that even if they don’t change their mind that moment, that week, that year, providing representation of kindness or respect in a demographic they don’t understand will never be wasted effort. It may be something that never goes anywhere, but its effect can only be positive or neutral, not negative.

I can’t control the world. I tried my best to affect my little slice of life with this election but my best was not enough. I did what I could.

I can’t control other people. But I will not condemn them or hate them for their vote, any more than I would want them to do that for me. I want to understand the reasons of others, so I can understand if there is anything I feel I can help them with in expanding their horizons, or whether it’s something where we simply cannot come to an agreement. And in that case, I think it’s also important to respectfully agree to disagree.

I know that for the more liberal side of the conversation, it can feel easy to fall into a state of moral superiority–to feel like there is no need to listen to others because we’re on the side of equality and tolerance and inclusivity. But the thing is, one of the complaints I hear from conservatives a lot is how hypocritical they feel it is that the people that yell the loudest about how inclusive they are, are the first people to attack anyone who isn’t representative of a minority or a protected class they care about. The same people who champion social justice can turn around and be extremely discriminatory toward people in the majority.

And in all honesty, I think they’re right with that complaint. I have seen liberals do that many times, and quite honestly it’s incredibly upsetting to me because hypocrisy is my greatest pet peeve. And I feel like that is a very hypocritical stance to take. As such, that behavior is sometimes more upsetting to me than the things the super conservatives say about me not having the right to exist. I expect close-mindedness from certain viewpoints, where they are determined to only see validity in demographics that exactly match their own–but I expect more from the people who say they care about everyone.

The way I see it, how can I say I’m for equality if I’m unwilling to treat everyone equally? How can I say I’m tolerant if I’m unwilling to show tolerance toward those who differ the most from me in my views or beliefs?

I know how easy it is to say, “But they’re wrong!” when someone says something really upsetting or really shitty about a demographic that’s important to you, or really any demographic at all. Believe me, I know that frustration.

I’m not saying you need to change your mind on that and say they’re right. In fact: don’t. If someone says sexual assault is okay, or that we should ban entire groups of people based on their religion or country of origin, or that gender identity doesn’t exist, or that if you’re born gay you should have it tortured out of you to turn you straight again, or anything else like that – don’t accept it in the name of tolerance. That is not at all what I mean. That would be counterproductive and it would be normalizing really terrible views. That is not at all the answer toward a happier, safer future for us all.

But you can converse with others civilly, respectfully, to get to the crux of their issue. You can identify if it’s something that you feel you can explain to them from a different direction, maybe not using keywords they may have their mind set against, in order to show them a new view. I once had my most stubborn and conservative family member shift her view almost entirely on the subject of gay marriage because I didn’t back down from my viewpoint but I also didn’t attack her in the conversation; I stayed respectful and calm, and I explained why the particular arguments she was making had holes in them, and I explained why the topic mattered a lot to others. She didn’t 100% change her mind, but she changed it a hell of a lot more than I ever expected, because I believed in her and gave her that moment to believe in me.

You have to be willing to respectfully disengage and walk away, too, if needed. But I hope for people of all viewpoints to be willing for that respectful conversation in the first place, before they disengage.

Also, be aware of fake news which is rampant everywhere. Fact check everything with at least three sources, if you can. I was guilty of spreading misinformation since the election and probably before without meaning to, because something sounded like it could be real to me so I just reblogged without thought. Since then, I realized some of it was completely made up. That was irresponsible of me and I will do my best to do better.

The thing is, we all have the capacity for change. The way I see it–I can’t make choices for other people, and I don’t want to. Because I’m not them, I would worry I would make a choice that was actually not for their betterment in the long run. But I can make my own choices. Maybe I try talking to someone and they just refuse to budge, and they continue to be really frustrating or angry or mean. Maybe it gets to a point where we have to part ways. I don’t see that as wasted time, or a mistake.

The way I see it, that’s their choice to retain that negativity in their heart. My choice is to retain positivity. If we have to part ways, I will do my very best to remain patient, respectful, and civil throughout so that when they think back on that conversation, I am not vindicating them in their frustration or discrimination. I am not reflecting the worst attributes they expected to see when interacting with someone of such opposing views or such a different lifestyle. If they want to take away only negativity from that interaction, that’s their choice. If they want to rationalize their actions or their words when done to maliciously harm others, I will not aid them in that endeavor. I will not be the person they can think about as justification for that behavior.

Whether they think differently about the topic then or whether they let it percolate in their mind over time, I would rather be the person who makes them doubt that negativity than be the person to entrench them in it further. Because I don’t like hurting people, even if they hurt me; but I also don’t like excusing or ignoring negativity without trying to address it.

For every piece of negativity I see, I will return it threefold with positivity into the world. For every sad thing, I will try to do something happy. For every person who doesn’t understand me and dismisses me/others who are in even more precarious situations than I am, I will humanize those misunderstood or mistreated demographics to three other people.

Baby steps are as important as great leaps. Never giving up on humanity as a way of affecting great change on a smaller, more individual scale, is just as meaningful as those who can affect change on larger, more global scales. We can only work within the scope of our realities, and our reach, but that scope of our reach does not determine the importance of our actions.

I may have a very limited reach, but I will do what I can to ensure that my small reach represents the best that I know of humanity, instead of the worst.

I am human too, so I can and will make mistakes. I will have negative emotions, I will get upset, I will want to lash out at others sometimes, I will rant to a friend about why I’m so angry and hurt and frustrated and why I’m so done with everything. I will have weeks or days or months or sometimes years where my capacity for compassion is so stretched that I have to take a break from everything just to recover. I will fluctuate in my emotions, and I will change my mind on many, many topics over the years as my viewpoint expands and I come to learn more about the world not only from my own perspective but also from others. I will come to disagree with my past stances on some topics, even if I was very staunch on them at one time, but I will also not forget that past stubbornness so I can try to be empathetic or sympathetic to people making the same mistakes now that I made back then.

I will be human, which means sometimes I will be unkind or unfair, but I will do everything I can to always reevaluate later how I acted or what I said, and identify if I think I was right or wrong. If I made a mistake, I will own it. I will apologize. I will try to make it right. If I didn’t make a mistake, I will do my best not to apologize for it if later questioned.

This world isn’t about getting everything right the first time and never making mistakes; it’s all about what you do after that mistake. What you do to address it going forward.

There are a number of videos I’ve watched from a number of sources that I’ve really liked, and I was going to link them all here. But the thing is, I know that if I don’t post this tonight then it will become one of many, many other drafts of this same post I’ve been trying to make for 2 weeks.

So instead of tracking down all those links and explaining why I think they’re valuable to watch, I will say that I can link them in another post if you want; just tell me. They include videos from John Oliver, Philip DeFranco, probably Jon Stewart, and I think also Hannah Hart or John/Hank Green or others.

For now, instead of all of those videos, I will say–again–that I am not you. Please know I am not judging you for any of your choices since or up to the election, because I don’t know your reasons. I may even agree with your choices, depending on what they were. I am not telling you what to think or how to feel or what to do–I can only tell you how it is for me. I don’t know if it’s helpful for anyone, or if anyone has even bothered to read this far into the post.

But it would have bothered me not to post this, so it was important to me to do so. I didn’t want any of my posts to make people feel like I am alienating them based on their political beliefs, if they happen to believe differently than I do. And I also wanted to reach out to my friends who believe similarly to how I do, to say I understand completely why you are so upset, but I also hope you can have it in your heart to pause and reflect.

My wish for everyone on all sides of all conversations is, as I’ve said many times, to see the other person as a human being first and foremost, and all their beliefs and their demographics secondarily. It doesn’t discount the validity or importance of those beliefs or demographics, but it provides the opportunity for both sides to try to be a little more respectful in their discussion, which then ultimately means their viewpoint is more likely to be seen as rational and valid by the other side, and therefore more likely to change their mind or at least explain in an understandable manner why it is the way it is right now, for these two human beings, in their two equally important lives.

Let me end this on a quote from one of my favorite people living on planet Earth – someone who I greatly respect from what I know of her, and who truly represents tolerance, equality, and kindness; someone who I encourage you to research if you have not already. There are many great quotes from her, but I chose this one because I felt it fit the best for this–it isn’t about judging or silencing others, it’s about magnifying the voices you think need to be heard.

“I raise up my voice-not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard…we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.” 

Malala Yousafzai

No matter how you voted in the recent election, or whether you voted at all, or whether you’re even American or could–no matter one’s political beliefs, in terms of numbers the votes were split just about in half. No matter our views, we have reason to feel like we are half of a whole with the other half not understanding us.

But that is where I think the view is wrong. I think we can understand each other a lot more than we realize, if only we give that other half a chance.

We may or may not agree completely with each other, but it’s worth it to try to reach that understanding first before we dismiss the possibility entirely. It’s only through reaching out and trying, respectfully but firmly on our important beliefs, to bridge that gap that we will get to a point where next time, on the next vote, that other half will remember our half exists. And maybe next time we can be less split as a country, and more aligned on mutual respect and the willingness to understand or at least acknowledge those who are different than us.

That may seem like an unnecessarily optimistic viewpoint, but how will we ever know how realistic it truly is unless we try?


One thought on “I value you whether or not you value me, and other thoughts post-US election

  1. frabp November 19, 2016 / 6:14 am

    Ais, you are the best and I adore you.

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