Eight days ago, we witnessed the genesis of history. We watched the bid of the first major woman candidate fall, and we watched a historically familiar wave of hate and ignorance that has stained our nation’s history rise again.
The result shook Yale’s campus and the country. This outcome, that seemed inconceivably rare and equally destructive, quickly became our reality. The progressive ending that once seemed inevitable was crumpled up and tossed out into the waste bin of hopes that never came to be.
We were left with tears, with screams and with no words. We felt like we had lost not only an election but also a future, one in which we would finally hammer the last nails into the structure of a tolerant, more perfect nation. We not only felt grief. We also, much more dangerously, felt resentment — the sense of being cheated out of a future we worked so hard to create.
This feeling of passionate fury arose as our astonishment wore off. Now, more than a week after the election, we felt the need to answer the call to arms resist the anticipated onslaught of hate.
During protests, class discussions and conversations, the sentiment of defiance materialized as bullhorns announced that we would not let Trump walk off with the progress this country had made. Classmates vowed not stand by as he launched attacks based on race, religion or sexuality. We simply would not. We would resist and we would fight. This reaction is reasonable, undoubtedly; the next four years will bring legislation that defies the inclusivity that so profoundly permeates this community. If we believe that change should occur, then, of course, we must stand up and take action.
But we also should likewise be cautious of voicing our calls for change.
As we face those whose beliefs don’t match ours, we need not feed into the deep, unquestioning polarization that risks the productivity and stability of the country. We cannot dismiss opposing arguments as ridiculous or crazy. We cannot view those who believe differently as the enemy, even if at times that disagreement causes us great distress. Such division has threatened to tear apart our democracy in civil conflicts of the past. And it’s encumbered our ability to effect change in the last eight years.
Indeed, we must not allow our protesting to foster the same negligence for empathy and propensity for animosity that we wish to resolve in others.
To achieve peace between the warring Americas that this election has so blatantly exposed, we must instead empathize. We need to strive to perpetually sharpen our ability to think critically while still maintaining our generosity and open listening. Only then can we protect our rhetoric and actions from the belligerent mindset that so aptly characterizes our political divide today.
This means taking a diplomatic approach to political discourse. We should hope not only to effect greater tolerance in those people whom we deem as ignorant, racist and xenophobic. We should also aim to effect greater tolerance in ourselves as we aim to transform the quarrelsome battlefields of our political debate back into forums in which ideas are voiced and also heard.
It is equally necessary that we be vigilant in our effort to ensure that we don’t insulate ourselves in the echo chambers of exclusively liberal or conservative dialogue. We must maintain a perpetual effort to understand and bridge the ideological divide between those whom we protest and ourselves. Failing to do so renders all attempts of change futile, for an accentuated divide simply increases the likelihood that those two disagreeing sects will work more fervently to overturn the efforts of the other.
This means making a determined effort to crosscheck our news, purposefully seeking out opinions that make us want to pull out our hair. From there, we can rebuild relationships, grasp the root of hatred and make a plan together for a better community.
So if you’re committed to building a community in which all are respected, make yourself a beacon of respect in every setting toward every person. If you’re committed to making your voice heard, do all you can to hear the voices of others. And if you’re committed to understanding the virtues of true equality, do not ever cease in the effort to understand the reasons of those who are not. Love thy neighbor, even if they voted for Trump.
Andrew Ballard is a freshman in Pierson College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .