By Jackson Huemer
The other night I woke up crying. My laptop still had the YouTube playlist I fell asleep to watching, some random six minute comedy video playing. Clothes strewn across my floor, I sat up in bed and was sad. Truth is, this was not the first time in the last few weeks this had happened. I couldn’t quite place what was bothering me the other times I had suddenly gone from stable to full-tilt weeping. I do know when it started: election night.
Written piece after piece came out on how to deal with this. Podcasts devoted to how to process and what this meant going forward, in a broader scope. Above all else, lots of media consumed with what you could do and where we as a country were headed. Beautiful, painful, raw emotion poured out through writing from young and old, writing in a solemn disbelief filled the landscape. Drew University even held a panel on what this election meant. I would like to think all this was due to a polling error or some sort of bubble built around the coast or cities. But it was a collective shock by the majority of voters from Election Day. A great deal was spent talking and writing about it on the big smaller picture. That is to say, how one incredibly small fact dictated how everything else should be perceived.
That is not how life works. Humans are complicated creatures with thousands of bombardments against their emotional state hitting them every day. I should not feel sad every so often that instead of electing a strong, capable woman to lead for the next four years, our country elected a brash, whining liar who views golden plating to be the signal of excellence and achievement. As I sat in bed, I thought of the small picture. I narrowed my scope. I thought of my father, sure to lose his health insurance now. No longer is it 21 million Obamacare enrollees, it’s my father. I thought of my sister, mother and grandmother, three generations of strong, capable women who have to keep waiting to see if the country will lurch across the finish line and join our allies in the world in electing a woman.
But it affects everyone. So, as I sat in bed, I thought of those I do not know. I thought of the bigger picture. I thought of how this small part of someone’s Tuesday in November was a part of everything in their life up till this point, but just as an individual person. I thought of what I had not seen or heard or felt the last eighteen months: empathy. I had been so warped by this campaign, despite only being on the outskirts, that I had no sense of who was around me on campus and the greater area of this country. I had instead put my headphones on. Everywhere I went and consumed Twitter and Facebook like I thought I should.
The distance between us cannot grow further. Instead of staying so closely separated, we need to talk to each other. Yelling past each other is best saved for panels on cable news. Ordinary, yet passionate people need to begin the process of reaching out again. I do not mean a condescending conversation or an attempt to justify behavior. I mean a step towards honesty and consideration. Sit down, get coffee and just talk. Ask thoughtful questions, with genuine purpose in finding out the answer. Most important, ask how they are. Not in the moment, look at the small picture. To each and every person, their life has the enormity of a world undiscovered by anyone else.
When I thought of all these things, I did what so few of us do these days. I let myself be sad. I sat and dug deeper into my emotion. I wept, not attributing this as weakness but as a point with which to examine myself. The shock is still there, for many people and for myself. It is necessary to relieve ourselves of that burden and sooner than ever. Move towards those with whom you disagree. Say to them, “I have not understood you, but I want to try.” If we let whom we voted for in the 2016 presidential election define us as individual humans, the big picture shrinks to a very small one very quickly. Let’s start by making an effort to see a bigger picture in someone around us, one day at a time, one person at a time.
Jackson is a senior Political Science major.