We have seen images like these a lot over the last year or two. They fill our hearts with sadness and pity for these people. We ask ourselves questions like, "How desperate do you have to be to put your kids on one of those boats, knowing you could all drown before you reach land again?" And of course the answer is, when the alternative is even worse, you will do whatever you have to do, however precarious, however dangerous, to survive. To keep your children safe.
I've heard parents say that they would sell their soul to the devil to keep their children safe. As I don't have kids of my own, I cannot attest to this personally, but I will take their word for it. People will do whatever it takes to make sure their children survive a dangerous situation, and also hopefully, thrive and have a better life than they had. As we are now deeply embroiled in the post-election blame-game, I wanted to point out this factor.
I am going to make what might seem like a radical and unliberal statement, but I ask you to hear me out with an open heart and an open mind. I would hypothesize that the vast majority of people who voted for Donald Trump, are not racists/misogynists/homophobes. The majority of them are desperately in need of help and reached out to the only person who appeared to be offering it.
The economy has mostly recovered from the crash of 2005, except in the middle of the country. The west coast, in particular, is doing very well. It's hard to imagine that it isn't the same everywhere else. For the last eight years, people from the middle of this country have been telling us it's still bad there. They've been yelling and screaming and we've chosen to ignore it. We've heard their issues, but say to ourselves, "That's ridiculous, look how amazing it is now!" We have countered their fears and complaints with statements like, "You just don't like the president because he's black. You're a racist!" but we haven't stuck around to hear the response which probably would be, "I'm not a racist, I'm just trying to put food on the table...Why aren't you helping me?"
A wise coworker of mine pointed out to me the other day, the idea that the unemployment rate is really low right now and in our minds we're thinking, "Wow, we're so great at employment!" When the reality is actually people coming to the end of their benefits and being dropped from the statistics. They still don't have jobs, but now they don't have help from the government as well. If you lived in a place where there were no jobs to be had, and you are now being cut off from the only lifeline that's been helping you survive, what would you do? Picking up everything and moving elsewhere isn't necessarily affordable to people and what kind of a job would you be qualified to have? Liberals like to tease and put down people who are less educated than we are, but that also limits their abilities to have a well-paying job. How dare we tease people who don't have the same opportunities as us? Did any of us ever bother to learn why they have less opportunities to become educated? Did any of us ever help? Or did we just laugh and point, contributing to their continued humiliation? No wonder they hate us. They have every right to.
My personal opinion on the role of the federal government, besides keeping us safe from foreign powers and all the international stuff it does, is to help the people who cannot help themselves. We are ethically and morally obligated to help people when they cannot take care of themselves. For eight years, we've been writing off nearly half the country who have been telling us they need help. Liberals pride themselves on helping the downtrodden, but we missed this group of people in need. We ignored them, willfully and willingly and their need grew more and more until they had no other choice but to accept the offer from the devil. When we should have been acting like a nation that cares about each other, we failed. We failed them and in so doing, we failed in being what liberals pride themselves in being: charitable towards those in need.
This wasn't a problem with Hillary Clinton's planned policies, this was the current administration. This is on the current president, as sad as it makes me feel to say. I love our president, but he is not perfect. This was also the problem of the GOP for not doing more to help, either. Both parties played politics with each other, abandoning their actual duties of getting policies set in place that help people out. And whatever the reasons behind it, whatever the actual reality of it all, is irrelevant, because perception is all that matters. Both sides appeared not to care about the people crying out for help, so they turned to the person who claimed he would help. I'm sure a lot of them are aware that he might have no intentions of making good on any of his promises, but it's better than what they have now. It can't be any worse, right?
Now, I have said that I believe the majority of Trump voters aren't "ists" of any particular sort, and I do actually believe that. I am not unaware, however, that there is a faction of the voters who are. And they are using Trump's invitation to hate openly and outwardly. People are already being attacked and harassed and there are reports that somebody was killed. It is on us to make sure people stay protected during this time. I would also say that it is on the majority of Trump voters, the ones who only voted for him because of the economy, to help as well. A refusal to care about it or a refusal to help is being a part of it. If they choose to do nothing, if they choose not to stand up for others and protest any policies Trump may try to pass that would hurt others, they have a moral and ethical obligation to stand side-by-side with us. Failure to do so will leave them branded as an "ist," and they will have to live with those accusations and words assigned to them. That choice is entirely up to them.
I think, overall, the country is actually moving in the right direction. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and we cannot overlook the importance of that. We are at a place as a nation, as a people, to elect a woman to the highest office in the country. And if you look at a state and city level, there were amazing victories for women, people of color, and members of the LGBT community all around the country. We are doing something right.
What I wish we could see, as a nation, is that economic issues and social rights issues are not mutually exclusive. One does not have to be sacrificed to bolster the other. One party tends to be better at the social rights issues, and one party tends to be better with the economy. We need to come together and get to a place where each party can lend their strength to the country, and move both issues, forward. Once we can do this, we can start to see each other as people again.
For so long, we (By "we," I mean everybody, no particular side. All sides.) have looked to the other side, not as people who have a different opinion from us, but as the enemy. An enemy is no longer a human. They aren't a person. They're an entity to be conquered and destroyed. We don't have to listen to what they have to say. Maybe this is why we spent eight years writing off the screams of desperate people, because we saw them not as humans and fellow Americans, but as an entity that deserved what it got. They deserved to live in squalor and starvation and humiliation, because they are the enemy and that's what you do in a war.
But we aren't in a war. We've forgotten that. It's time we remembered.