Learning to listen after the election

Sarah Taekman, Columnist

Here it is: another election rant among millions.

I’m sure you’ve already heard every election opinion under the sun in the past weeks. I’ve seen people feel jubilant and feel heartbroken. There have been celebrations and protests aplenty. People have told me that I’m either too worried or not worried enough.

Whether or not we’ve made a horrible, horrible mistake is not the focus of this—whether or not you think we’ve made a horrible, horrible mistake is not the focus of this.

I’m not taking sides. I’m not going to tell you to stop taking sides.

I’m here to tell you to listen.

“Listen?” you ask. “But I am listening. My Facebook feed has been nothing but politics for the two weeks. Every time I turn on the news, I hear nothing but Trump’s policies, the protests and the surge in hate crimes. If anything, I’ve heard too much.”

But how much of have you been listening to the other side?

Social media acts like a sealed container—we surround ourselves with people we share opinions with, and when we shoot out our own thoughts, they bounce back to us with a chorus of agreement. No one likes to share their opinion online only to have someone tell them that they’re wrong. So, we avoid that situation.

But a lack of back-and-forth conversation between both sides made this election more heated, more cutthroat and more emotional than ever before. We turned it into a divisive election. We shunned the other side, because we decided that everyone in either political party perfectly embodied the same beliefs as their nominee. We forgot that a person’s political preferences do not necessarily equate to their personal values.

The country is in uproar, and everyone is reeling. We’ve fled to our respective containers to voice our distress, to voice our irritation to other people that understand it. Right now, we want comfort—not conflict.

But in order to move forward, we have to break free from those containers. We have to talk not only to those that share our views, but also to those that don’t.

Conservatives: Please listen to your liberal peers. You’re tired of the assumptions about your beliefs, and you’re tired of being charged with hatred. You want people to accept Trump’s win and for everyone to move on with their lives.

But when minorities, LGBT members, Muslims, Jews and women tell you that they’re legitimately scared, that they’re worried for their well-being—don’t silence them. Now is the time to tell them you’re here to support them throughout these four years. You say that you bear no grudge against these people? Then prove it. Hear them out, acknowledge their very real fears and help them take the action they need.

Liberals: Please listen to your conservative peers. You’re hurting. You’re scared. You’re not sure what will happen over these next four years.

But lashing out at the other party is unacceptable. All those who voted for Trump did not do so for the same reasons, and calling them names doesn’t solve anything. The label “conservative” doesn’t inherently make someone a bigot. Just like liberalism, conservatism is a spectrum—to deem everyone in that spectrum exactly the same ruins some chances for meaningful discussion and collaboration.

Trump won.

However you may feel about that, we need to start adjusting accordingly. The first step in making it through these next four years is by starting a discussion and understanding where everyone is coming from. Compromise isn’t possible without conversation.

You don’t have to agree with the other party on everything. But you do need to hear them out.

You might even find that you agree on more than you expected.

Bio: Sarah Taekman is a liberal first-year student who is really, really exhausted and concerned by the 2016 election.