My ENEMY is my Friend

With the recent inauguration of Donald Trump, many people across this great country are still feeling anger and resentment toward one another in the wake of a very messy and tumultuous election. Rather than seeing past their political differences, a growing number have chosen to stop speaking with friends and even family members, all because of whom they voted for. Now, perhaps more than ever before in our nation’s history, Americans of all political persuasions are isolating themselves from anyone who does not share their views and blaming each other for the perceived misbehaviors of the candidates they support. This accomplishes nothing and serves only to divide us.

Both Republicans and Democrats have fallen into the habit of demonizing one another, as it can be a very effective way to rally their supporters. Meanwhile, our friends in the national media seem to be doing everything they can to encourage this mindset for the sake of ratings. But at the end of the day, the real blame lies with us, the American people, for so eagerly lapping it up.

If you spend some time on Google, you’ll see no shortage of posts and even news articles encouraging readers to view people with political differences as the enemy and cut them out of their lives. We see it on both sides, though a new study indicates that this behavior is more common among Democrats. As a proud Bernie Sanders supporter, I’ve had more than my share of contacts on the left unfriend me for refusing to fall in line behind Hillary Clinton.

Rather than being angry with your friends and loved ones for the terrible crime of voting for the wrong candidate, you should be thankful to have people in your life who care enough about their country and the world to get involved in the democratic process. Politicians and media alike have been conditioning us for years to despise our political rivals as we would foreign invaders. It is vitally important, both for our democracy and for ourselves, that we stand up to and resist this movement toward hatred of our neighbors.

Let’s face it: The two major parties gave us a pair of awful presidential candidates in 2016. Many Americans chose to vote for neither candidate, while others simply voted for whom they perceived to be the “lesser evil.” According to a poll taken before the election, a 33 percent plurality of Trump supporters backed him because he’s not Hillary Clinton, not because they agree with his inflammatory rhetoric. Likewise, 32 percent of Clinton supporters — also a plurality — backed her because she’s not Donald Trump.

If this is true, it means you cannot draw a conclusion that a person supports racism, corruption or whatever else simply because the politician they voted for does. It’s not so much that they voted for a candidate as they voted against one. Since there was no shortage of reasons to vote against either Clinton or Trump, you can’t rationally blame someone for pinching their nose and choosing one or the other.

Most Trump supporters are not racists or bigots any more than most Clinton supporters like what Wall Street is doing to our economy or the encroachment of corporate influence in our public policy. We need to remember this and stop ascribing everything candidates say and do to the people who vote for them.

So the next time President Trump says something stupid about Mexicans, remember that those words came out of his mouth, not your friend’s. A lot of people voted for him in spite of offensive tripe like that, not because of it. It’s time to stop hating one another and start healing these divisions. We’re all on the same team, after all.

Craig is a software engineer in College Place, Washington.