Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Election One Week Later: Why We Are Forgetting What We Must Remember

   A few weekends ago, a good friend of mine came home one evening to find signs in his yard. He moved them. The next night, his bushes were covered with toilet paper, his house was egged, and someone had thrown a smashed, rotting pumpkin onto his lawn.
   It was not Halloween. It was November 6, election night. The signs he had moved from his yard were signs supporting the Obama campaign. His family being conservative, he had taken them out. The next day at school, following Barack Obama’s victory, he reports of being talked down to, made fun of, and being grouped with people who are uneducated.
   If it sounds like kid stuff, it is far from it. The friend in question is in college.
   After the post-election Wednesday had run its course, and the insufferable Facebook posts had stopped, things went right back to normal. Obama won, few things changed, and that was that; life continued as usual. My friend went back to that same school, and things were quiet once again. Now, a full week later, all of the coverage and arguing and debating seems forever ago. We continue on like nothing happened, and whether you supported Obama or Romney or some other guy, it is important to look back on our national behavior, our national division, and know that it was dead wrong.
   The day of the election, I was sitting in one of my classes here at Northwestern University, and the topic of discussion turned to Fox News. The professor flashed a statistic that indicated that Fox News was the most trusted news source in America. People howled their disbelief. The professor asked why everyone found this odd. One girl began to say something along the lines of, “Well, when you have a news outlet that is so . . .” but I could not hear the rest of her sentence, because the student next to me blurted out “Wrong!” to punctuate it themselves. Hold up. Fox News is not wrong. It does not lie to people or make things up; it is biased, and there is a difference between the two. I was almost speechless. The next slide came up, and it showed a statistic indicating that Fox News was the most untrusted news source in the country. The majority of the class laughed.
   This small story can be translated onto a larger scale. So often during this election process, we were quick to point to the other party and say that they were wrong. Then, not only are they wrong, they are stupid! They are stupid for thinking differently! It is not one party’s fault or the other’s, either. This is something brought on by everyone. Both sides, whether it was attack ads or obnoxious radio hosts or smear campaigns, presented ideals that focused on an “Us vs. Them” agenda. In something that decides and shapes the next four years of our country, there has to be an alternative.
   This election, more than any before it, showed the rift in our country. Republicans and Democrats alike began to see themselves as soldiers on a battleground, fighting each other over what was the proper way to steer our nation, and in the meantime they lost sight of their true identity: Americans. Democratic, indivisible Americans. In the weeks and months leading up to this past election, our country was so at odds that people resorted to vandalism, mockery, and hate in order to make their point. Just to say that they were better. Just to say that they were right and that you were wrong.
    Obama won. There is no changing that, so the only thing left to do is to hope that the guy does a good job. There are people who trust that he will, and people who trust that he will not, but everyone should hope. For months now we have put our parties first, and our peers, communities, and country have come second. It is time to end it all. Democrats need to stop gloating, and Republicans need to stop the pessimism and just hope for the best. As a country, we have been almost silent about the animosity that we experienced these past few months, and now it is our responsibility to remember it so it can never happen again.
   For a long time leading up to November 6, everyone was begging for silence. No more ads, no more coverage, no more arguing. Now, everything is over. The results are in, and we seem to find ourselves either in quiet relief or quiet apprehension. Not all silence is golden, however. The rift in the middle of our country remains, and we cannot be silent about that.

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