'The more I learn, the more I realize how much I do not know.' - Albert Einstein

'When the power of love overcomes the love of power, then the world will know peace.' - Jimi Hendrix

To say that the 2016 Presidential Election caused a ripple of strong emotions from all ends of the political spectrum is an understatement.  Anyone who knows me well knows that I am expressive about...everything.  I thrive on my ability to communicate and wear my emotions firmly on my sleeve.  Words are a powerful vehicle of our inner soul and musings to the world.  Words pave the way between our thoughts, visions, and actions.  I believe words are the world’s largest untapped resource of unification—and despite the era we live in, I stand by that belief.

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Despite my need for constant communication, I tend to keep to myself when it comes to walking the delicate line that is politics.  However, for arguably the first time in my life, I'm filled with a truly bizarre dichotomy.  A ‘loss for words’ is not the correct term...on the contrary, I feel as though I have too many words, feelings, emotions swirling around, too many to attempt to make sense of.  The more I continue to express myself and listen to my peers, the more confused and less expressive I become.  This is a poignant time in my life—and for many young women across the country—where I feel like my words have failed me.  My immediate reaction is...are we stripped of our biggest resource?  And more importantly, what does this mean not only for us, but our future?

After 72 hours of post-election media blitzing and pouring over the multitude of opinions from Americans of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, it’s clear now more than ever that political systems require different viewpoints for success.  I majored in history in college and have a particular fascination with how circumstances of varying societies lead groups of humans to come to conclusions about how to best govern themselves.  Different views on both a major and minute level on fiscal and foreign policy are inherent to our political system and heated discussions are oftentimes a necessary means to an end.  Exposing oneself to opinions that are different is challenging, and stimulates more creative and collaborative discussions about future solutions for positive change.

But again, this is for POLITICS.  What is NOT up for discussion is the worth of another human being over another.  And whether you are Democrat, Republican, Independent, head of your own party, or from Mars, I truly cannot stomach the idea of lumping politics in the same category as human decency.  I think in part that a group of individuals, many without meaning to, placed a value on politics when casting their vote in lieu of harmful, hurtful, and deeply disturbing rhetoric. 

What is NOT up for discussion is the worth of another human being over another.

But here’s the thing: political policies are a means of governance.  I don’t care who you voted for.  I think we should all agree that they should NOT be lumped in with the global code of human decency; with how we treat each other.

In college, I took a class called ‘Europe: 1880-1945’.  I tend to look at the world through a historically tinted lens, as I often reason why things are the way they are and 'how we got here.'  Recently I have been thinking of this class often.  During our class discussions about the impact of urbanization, development of the telephone, war, gender norms, and the fundamentally changing conception of time and space, my professor spoke repeatedly of one concept that perpetuates throughout human history, into the modern day: the concept of ‘otherness.’

The idea of ‘otherness,’ that someone is fundamentally different—and thus less worthy—than ourselves is flawed beyond measure.  Anyone who is different is the enemy.  It taps into the beautiful, yet horrible, innate human desire to belong.  To belong—a human need so fundamental to every single person I know; there’s no better feeling than to belong to a family, a community, even a group of friends or a sports team.

If you do not belong, you are unwelcome.  You are a threat.  You are not worthy.

This type of logic, this type of rhetoric...this is not politics.  This is something more.

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There’s no better feeling than to belong to a family, a community, even a group of friends or a sports team.

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I don’t even want to say I ‘had to process’ the election results.  They were pretty clear.  What I had to do, however, was, given my position in society, think about what this means for me going forward and how I can continue to be a positive voice—not for politics, but for humankind.  And I think we need to start by using our greatest resource: our words.

A fellow bSmart member Molly Goodspeed said, ‘It’s hard to preach equality while admitting the advantage that some have more than others.  The only hope we have in moving forward is acknowledgement.’  I couldn’t agree more.  Progress comes from cooperation and action.  Cooperation and action come from words.  We need to openly acknowledge injustices, and start the conversation.  Even the smallest act, once spread, can have an effect on a national scale.

But don’t just talk.  Listen to others’ words as well.  Denounce the idea of ‘otherness.’  Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.  This is not a cliche—this is so fundamentally important to the success of humankind.  If you were a woman, how would you feel about a threat to your rights to healthcare and assault?  If you were gay, how would you feel if your right to love was stripped away from you?  If you were a minority, would you view yourself differently and live in fear? 

‘Otherness’ does not exist in my America.  Only the right to belong, whoever you are.  I pledge to be more conscious, thoughtful, and listen more than ever before.  But above all, I PROMISE to NEVER stop using my words.

 

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