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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 8, 2016

We're not enemies

By Steph Tahtinen

By STEPH TAHTINEN

Mt. Pleasant News

The first presidential election I voted in was in 2008. I remember sitting in my dorm room filling out my absentee ballot and having my roommate sign as my witness. We laughed at the time because we knew we were canceling out each other’s votes — we had very differing political viewpoints.

On election night we had the sound muted on the TV as we were both also writing papers at the time, so there was virtually no noise in our room as we watched the results come in. The tension was high and there was some grumpiness when we went to bed that night.

In a day or two, we were fine. We had gotten over our differences. Life went on.

I don’t foresee that happening very easily this time around. And I’m not talking about between my former roommate and myself. I stopped trying to discuss politics with her a long time ago. I’m talking about the nation as a whole.

From the political ads dominating TV and flooding my mailbox to the comments and hysteria being spread online, the battle lines are clearly drawn and at the end of the day on Nov. 6, the American voters will have chosen a side.

But I’m wondering what’s going to happen on Nov. 7. Will those battle lines still be drawn, or will the American people be able to accept the election results and move forward with their lives? I’m not sure.

Maybe it’s just that I’m paying more attention now than I ever did before, but the 2012 election seems to have divided the nation. There does not seem to be much middle ground as the two sides are arguing their polar opposite views on the major issues.

Now don’t get me wrong, having strongly held convictions is fantastic. Arguing your opinion is a good thing. I support a good debate. But what I take issue with is people who look down on somebody else because of their beliefs.

I see this happening a lot this election season — especially online — and I’m left wondering what happened to allowing people to have an opinion different than yours. Isn’t that what democracy is based on?

I think, in a way, we’re losing sight of this. It brings to mind one of my favorite quotes from the British author Elizabeth Gaskell: “I know we differ in our religious opinions; but don’t you give me credit for having some, though not the same as yours?”

Although Gaskell was specifically referring to religion in this case, the sentiment can apply to any belief or opinion.

Now, I’m not asking us to all hold hands, sing “Kum Ba Yah” and celebrate world peace. I’m not quite naïve enough to think that’s possible. But I don’t think it’s too far out of line to expect that we show a little respect to those whose opinions differ from our own.

We’re not enemies after all, so why are we acting like it? Regardless of who wins the election on Nov. 6, there will be many people who are going to be disappointed. But we will wake up on Nov. 7 and life will go on.