Meet in the middle

On Saturday, Nov. 5, I showed up at the Oviedo library with my voter registration card and a pre-filled out sample ballot, ready to cast a vote for who I assumed would be a losing candidate.  I was happily shocked when I went to bed Tuesday night, but when I showed up to school on Wednesday, several of my classmates seemed as though their pets had been murdered. Some students were so heartbroken; they couldn’t even come to school. One of my sister’s teachers showed up, but refused to teach.

Donald Trump’s victory was a huge shock to many, including me. Now that the dust has settled there has been time to reflect on the election and one thing has become clear. If we are ever to accomplish anything as a country, we have to go beyond the name-calling and the polarized panic to understand each other’s political views and meet in the middle.

Trump supporters were quiet before the election and possibly skewed polls because they were afraid to be labeled a bigot, a misogynist, a racist, a homophobe or another term from a wide array of damning adjectives.  This attitude was prevalent in our school, too.  Finding Trump supporters to interview has been difficult for this staff, and when they are found, they wish to remain anonymous.

A school is a place to share ideas and learn from both sides of an argument. Isn’t that why we’re taught to include counterclaims in our essays?  But during election season, sporting Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton merchandise was seen as cool, while wearing a Trump shirt was seen as instigative, derogatory and unacceptable.  The nationwide appeal of the Democratic Party to younger people contributed to this attitude, but it remains unacceptable for a place of learning to be a place where only one perspective can be taken into account. I have a close friend who is a liberal and all we could do was joke about the election; discussing our actual thoughts was too dangerous.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably realized I voted for Trump. I didn’t do it because I’m a neo-Nazi or a misogynist.  I cast that vote because I have seen the textile towns of our country that need reinvigorating and the tax reduction my family and I will receive as middle-class Americans.  I also believe Trump’s childcare plan posed a new solution to problems families face, whereas Hillary’s solution was one that already isn’t working. I’d be lying if I said years of conservative family dinner table discussions didn’t have an impact on my choice, but in the end, my decision was independent of my parents’. Put simply: I read the thought-out policies on the two candidates’ websites and didn’t listen every time someone called Trump racist the same way I didn’t listen every time Hillary Clinton was called a criminal.

Yes, I voted for Trump. Yes, I have liberal friends whom I respect greatly. I have been a Republican since I voted for George W. Bush in a kindergarten classroom election in 2004, and I, along with other closeted conservatives, would love to listen and learn from the perspectives of any liberal at this school, so long as they’re willing to listen to mine- without the name calling.