There is no little doubt in my mind that nothing brings out the worst in people better than a contentious election campaign. In Canada this usually means six to ten weeks of slight animosity. In the United States – a country where the presidency holds much wider global implications – it is often a two year battle royal that literally has people un-friending each other after terrible flame wars.
The 2016 Presidential Election was no doubt the worst I have ever experienced. Whether this was because the system is broken, or because the two parties chose two very flawed candidates, or whatever the reason… I cannot think of a single civilized debate among friends or families who disagreed; it was all shouting and hateful rhetoric.
Boy, am I glad it is over.
I do not vote in the United States. I am a proud citizen of two countries, neither of which is the USA. That does not mean that I do not have my own opinions – I do. However much I might have hidden it this time around (as I generally try to) it was obvious which candidate I preferred. That candidate did not win. As I said to my friend Eduardo prior to election day, if Secretary Clinton were to win I would celebrate… by smoking a cigar. If Mr. Trump were to win I would mourn… by smoking a cigar. Life will go on and despite what many will tell you, it is not the end of the world.
For the record, the cigar I smoked was a Montecristo No. 2 that was rolled at the Coronas factory in Havana, Cuba. It was delicious.
For several weeks prior to the election I mused that I was looking forward to life getting back to normal, where not every conversation both on- and off-line was a fight about the election. That sentiment was, I’m afraid, far too optimistic. The election is now a week in our rear-view mirror, and the fights continue. To the embarrassment of many there are even now protests and riots in the streets… yes, even in Canada. The #NotMyPresident campaign is going strong, and while many Americans are looking for a way to move to Canada ahead of Inauguration Day, I am looking for a tropical island with no televisions and no Internet.
A few days ago I posted something on Facebook that sparked yet another heated flame-war between my friends. I generally will let them go at it. However a disturbing trend has come up. Several different people have questioned how I could possibly be friends with anyone who would ‘support the other guy?’ They have not left it at that. One person whom I went to high school with equated being friends with a Trump supporter with being friends with a supporter of Maurice Duplessis. ‘Would you have been friends with someone whose minister wanted to deport all Jews?’ Another (actually, possibly the same person) asked if I could have been friends with someone who voted for Stalin? Yet another, of course, brought up Hitler.
Now let’s make a few things clear: Firstly nobody had to vote for Stalin… and if you did want to vote against him there was a nice Gulag waiting for you, assuming you were not one of the millions of Russians he simply killed. But leaving that aside, the United States is not and will not become Nazi Germany. While I do not think the Trump presidency will be good for a lot of groups, I also do not think that anyone will be interned (although have you looked at the prison statistics?), and while he may halt immigration I don’t think anyone who is legally in the United States will be deported based on their race.
But the point is this: We live in a world where people have different views. Some of those views of people we like and love will differ tremendously from our own, and to disavow them is to give in to the hate. NO I will not do that. Frankly, if every Trump supporter were an outright racist, none of them would be friends with me (did I mention I’m Jewish?)
I also don’t think most of them (those that I am friends with) are actually racist. I think they are just fed up with a political system that they see as having let them down for too many years. If that were not the case then I don’t think that Trump would have even gotten the nomination.
Don’t get me wrong… I have equated Trump to Hitler on many occasions, but not for his racism (and yes, I truly feel that he has proven himself to be a racist). I think he campaigned in much the same way Hitler did – show people how bad things are very loudly, blame a particular group or groups, and bang the table without offering any solutions but insulting his opponent. Sound familiar? All he was missing was the Beer Hall.
I did un-friend one person from Facebook during the campaign, and yes she was a Trump supporter. However when she posted slanderous accusations against the candidate’s spouse, posting speculation of criminal activity as fact, and when I confronted her about it in private she started insulting me and the fact that I had the nerve to try to kiss her on a date two years ago. Frankly in this she proved that I probably should not have been on that date in the first place, but that is another story.
So yes, I am going to remain friends with people whom I have jokingly called fascists, and who I felt during the course of the campaign made a complete ass of themselves. I am certainly going to remain friends with my family (my cousins may be right-wing nut jobs, but they are my family and I love them). Most of all, I am not going to un-friend anyone based on someone else telling me that I should. That was reserved for high school, and truth be told I never had enough friends in high school to give them up because someone told me I should.
The best meme I have seen since the election said something like: ‘If you are unhappy with the result of the elections do not move to Canada… move to a Red state, become a school teacher, and educate people.’ I am going to remain friends with my friends because the only way they will ever see the light is by people like me gradually showing them that moderate is better than extreme, and love is better than hate.
And with that, I am going to watch a TV show that has absolutely nothing to do with politics. Have a great day.