At 42 years old, I have seen some hotly contested elections. And I have seen us move from a place of “I don’t agree with his politics” to “He is an idiot!”. My first presidential election I could vote in was Bill Clinton vs George Bush. After 12 years of Republicans in office, there was a shift to Democrats and it felt monumental at the time. As the Clinton presidency went on however, you could see the discourse coming…his personal activities, became front page news. His marriage and his mistresses more a topic of conversation than his presidency. And eventually, he left office with the tide turning back to Republicans.
George W. Bush came into a presidency where it was ok to make the President seem “less than”. We talked about how “stupid” he seemed and we gossiped about a long ago battle with drugs. And we criticized him for the lack of response when Hurricane Katrina hit and caused massive destruction. And through it all, the Presidency had lost something …we had permission to make the president a buffoon – publicly, loudly. Don’t get me wrong – people have always done this with their leaders. But it seemed there was no respect for the office anymore. It wasn’t a bad policy, or a bad President – it was a bad job to have.
Barack Obama brought a new message – hope. Hope that we could be better, that we could do better. That the country could be better. But we slid further and further into our hatred slide. When Obama was running the first time, I was actually told at church that he was the Anti-Christ and that this was a sign of the end times. I didn’t attend some cult church – this was a traditional southern baptist church. But his message, his very being, seemed to incite a rhetoric that got more and more sinister For years we tried to invalidate his presidency by claiming he was not US born. We made assumptions about his religious identity and questioned his loyalties to the God we wanted him to believe in and the one we thought he believed in.
And through it all, the political landscape lead us to a place where we started to treat others the way we regarded the President. It stopped being, “lets agree to disagree” and it became “we can’t be friends if you like XYZ”. We used Facebook and Twitter to tear down those who believed differently than we did. We unfriended anyone who went against our political posts and we thought the world had the right to our opinion.
And most disturbingly, we have made the words “liberal” and “conservative” into bad things. We have made it so you have to choose a side – you can’t believe in some of the policies…you have to dive in whole hog and BE one or the other. And once you choose, you will never be able to support the other side.
So Mr. President-elect, I was not a fan of your campaign. I will never be a fan of someone who feels it is ok to publicly mock people. Or someone who has used their position of power and wealth to make others feel less than. You have a big job to do if you are going to reunite the American people. We are not just a nation divided – we are a nation who has reveled in the divisions for so long, that we can’t see any other way. We need someone who can soothe the hurting souls of people here in the US and give us something good to believe in. We need someone who will not just stand strong to other nations, but who can show compassion to those here in the US that need help.
We need a leader. We need someone who loves America so much, that he wants to do what is best for us – not just what serves the President. You have a lot to prove. Let’s get to work.