By: David J. Smith, November 8, 2016
We are now at the end of the most contentious and mean spirited presidential election in modern times. You would probably need to go back to the 19th century and look at the elections of Andrew Jackson and Thomas Jefferson to see ones where the tones were as reprehensible. But even back then there seemed to be a limit as to what was allowed in political decorum.
I am not interested in disparaging one campaign or the other. I have my own views on the candidates, but in considering the divisions in our country, it makes little difference if you support Clinton, Trump, or a third party candidate. The point is: We have never been so divided and polarized as a country. Vilifying, not only the other candidate, but also his or her supporters is done without much regard as to whether there is truth backing up the accusation, or if it is fair and dignified.
Much has has been reported and written about the divisions in our country. We are divided economically, socially, by worldview, and of course, by political persuasion. There are “haves” and “have nots.” Many Americans have not had the advantages of education, and there are those who view their educational status as entry into an elite class. Some Americans are thriving economically, while others are suffering. As a country, we are at an important cross roads.
The president who takes office in January inherits a world that is dangerous and unstable. Americans are angry as well as discouraged. As the only person who represents all Americans, he or she will need to reach out to those who feel that their voices have not been heard or considered. It will be a tough order.
In our communities, there are divisions that will be even more evident after tomorrow. Hope springs eternal, but disappointment can be unforgiving. Nearly half of all Americans will vote today for a person who will not be elected tonight.
As conflict resolution practitioners and peacebuilders we are uniquely positioned to understand the dynamics of differences. We are trained to consider the motivations of those who are discontent and disaffected. We know sources of dissent and frustration. We also know the consequences of failing to engage those who are disgruntled and bridge gaps to seek understanding.
It is my hope that all of us will tomorrow look for opportunities to listen and give voice to the voiceless. We must be able to reassure those who are angry and have lost hope that as a country of many creeds we can move forward to promote the common good. We are a country of many that continues to seek to be one: E pluribus unum.