WELL, THAT HAPPENED: Gasping For Air

By on November 15, 2016

Learning how to emerge from the rubble of political dissention.

Faced with a sinking feeling, the author ruminates some possible plans for Inauguration Day. (Photo: Andrew Munz)

Faced with a sinking feeling, the author ruminates some possible plans for Inauguration Day. (Photo: Andrew Munz)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – In last week’s column, I predicted that Secretary Hillary Clinton would win the presidential election. Like most Americans, I was under the impression that polling was a more-or-less accurate representation of the political heartbeat. Unfortunately, that was not the case, and I don’t think there’s a one of us that wasn’t, on some level, shocked by the results, and the words, President-elect Donald J. Trump.

I spent election night at the Town Square Tavern watching CNN’s John King and Wolf Blitzer tap away on their massive touchscreen of the United States, zooming in and out as one state after another transformed from light, liberal blue to deep, conservative red. The Republicans took the majority of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and, ultimately, the executive branch as well. The mood at the Tavern plummeted from joyful chatter and free tacos, to teary-eyed looks of despair.

I couldn’t hold back my tears. This election meant a lot to me as a member of the LGBT community, and I understood how much it meant to so many other minorities, immigrants, women, and other people whose voices are underrepresented in politics. This was never just about you or me. This was about preserving the progress that past generations worked so hard to build. That the Trump administration will work to repeal so much of that progress is heartbreaking.

That night I went on Facebook and commiserated with many of my friends around the world. Conversations about immigrating to different countries were abundant. As a dual citizen with Austria, I realize that I own the ability to easily return back to Iceland or choose a country in the European Union and escape a Trump reality. My overactive and sensitive mood pushed me to unfriend a handful of people who I knew to be Trump supporters. When others came out of the woodwork to write dissenting remarks on my profile, I deleted their voices too, which I regret.

I was so emotionally wrecked. I still am.

After nearly two years of election coverage, I decided that Facebook was a big part of why I felt so crushed by this election. I ended up posting a status about my abstention from the social media drug until I was ready to return. Breaking away from social media, a place where “click bait” headlines and misinformation have run rampant in recent years, has helped me zero-in on my priorities and improve my productivity.

But just being absent from the discussion does not remedy the problem.

Yes, our country is greatly divided. Yes, there is a larger difference of opinion than we’d ever predicted. And of course it’s tempting and easy to unfriend people who disagree with us, or leave the country because we literally can’t even… But as my roommate Madeleine said, “If you cut out all the people you disagree with, you’ll be trapped in an echo chamber.”

This concept of leaving the country is certainly anyone’s right. But part of me wants to stay and fight, to hold Trump supporters to the forthcoming legislation of a Trump administration. Trump voters are often outraged when they’re called sexists, homophobes, racists, etc., so I fully expect those people to be vocal and stand with their liberal friends if Trump and Congress do what they campaigned to do and begin passing and repealing laws that target minorities.

More than ever, the outcome of this election will begin to change the fabric of our country both domestically and our perception overseas. It already has. Yet, we still stand strong. We have no other choice. I strongly believe there is hope on the horizon, but we have to make strides to pull the country together. Initially, it might be good to separate yourself from your social media ties and online news sources, just to reexamine your values and priorities. We have to learn how to be real humans again, not technological puppets so easily persuaded and affected by headlines, comments sections, opinion pieces, etc.

The more we revert back to the comfortable mental zone of, say, 2008, when we were less married to our phones and our social media apps, perhaps we’ll rediscover the worth in helping our fellow neighbors, being on time, paying attention, and listening, actually listening to people again. The moment we transform back into level-headed human beings is the moment we stop having such one-click, knee-jerk reactions, and can quit this habit of fixing bullet wounds with Band-Aids and, ultimately, become the open-minded, progressive Americans the world expects us to be. PJH

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