I originally intended for this op-ed to have a much more positive perspective on the outcome of the election and what we could all do going forward. Given the results of the election, I am no longer nearly as optimistic as I was before about the state of our nation. However, I realize that this does not change the importance of the message of my original op-ed. If anything, for those of us that were devastated by Tuesday night, I believe this message is more important than ever before.
In many ways, this election has brought out the worst on both sides. I believe most would agree that this is one of the most divisive elections in our history. Facebook arguments have devolved into insults, name-calling and blocking those who disagree with us. This voluntary censorship, however, is a dangerous road to embark on.
When we block or unfriend those we disagree with, we are hiding from alternative viewpoints, closing the door on future discussion.
Furthermore, we are lying to ourselves and hiding in a fantasy world where everyone has similar opinions. We do not all agree, and it is important to be reminded of that once in a while, as frustrating as it can be. On Tuesday night, I saw far too many people asking Trump supporters to unfriend them.
All of the polls made us complacent in the idea that Hillary would win. Perhaps it is important to have these voices remind us that the polls may be incorrect.
This is not to say that if you are personally being targeted for your identity, and not just your beliefs, that you should not feel comfortable protecting yourself by unfriending someone. If the issue is simply political ideology, or if they are attacking an identity that you are not a member of, you cannot filter out half the country.
It is our obligation to speak up for and defend those who may not feel safe doing so themselves.
After the election is over, many people will go back to ignoring politics. We cannot let this happen. Apathy is what allowed this election to reach the state that it has. If you did not like your choices in this election, volunteer for a candidate in the next election. Find a candidate you like, trusts and can support, and then help them by doing whatever you can: donating, phone banking, canvassing, etc.
As members of a democracy, we do have a voice but only if we use it. Waiting until the month before an election to care about the result is simply too late.
Can’t volunteer? Vote in the primaries. According to Pew Research, only around 28.5 percent of estimated eligible voters voted in the primaries this year. This smaller percentage tends to be the extremists on both sides.
If we, as a nation, want to see more middle of the road, reasonable candidates, then we must not allow the parties to be hijacked by the radicals on both sides. Paying attention to and voting in the primaries can help ensure that the best of both parties are up for election.
As a nation, we all benefit when the candidates are both decent options. Otherwise, both sides are put into a fear-induced state and convinced that the results of the election will mean the end of the world. Sound familiar?
Besides voting in just the presidential primaries, it is important to vote in every election and primary. State politics tends to have more of an impact on our everyday lives. They control redistricting, state budgets, state education, state taxes and so much more. These elections affect our day-to-day lives more than a presidential election ever can.
It is important that we vote in the midterm elections, the local elections, the elections that do not run concurrently with the presidential elections and those elections that are more often and in between. Make your voice heard more than once every four years.
Just as importantly, we cannot afford to ignore politics until the next election comes around. Minds take time to change, and when it is finally election season, most people cannot be persuaded. If you are passionate about an issue, make it known.
Engage in those hard conversations and see if you can find that middle ground with someone you disagree with, or help them to better understand your position. Trust me, it is not a fun process. Some people cannot handle reasoned and rational discussions, but that does not give us an excuse not to try. It is our obligation as members of a democracy to ensure that our peers are educated and engaged.
So where do we go from here? First, as funny as it is to joke about leaving the United States, please do not actually follow through. This country needs you now more than ever. Second, I am not asking you to share 20 articles a day on your page, nor am I asking you to get in flame wars under every post you disagree with. Rather, I am requesting that we, as a nation, are no longer afraid of having these difficult conversations and hoping that we can manage to do so in a respectful and logical manner.
Use facts, link to articles (and if you wouldn’t feel comfortable potentially using the article in a paper for school then it probably is not a justifiable source), do not name call or switch topics to “gain an advantage,” and most of all, be willing to question yourself and your beliefs, and be willing to admit that the other side might, occasionally, be right.
This election cycle has proven that we can no longer afford to be apathetic. If you believe that this election was a mess, then learn from this election, get involved, use your voice and vote.
Mia Berman is a junior International Studies major from Hopkins, Minn.