“People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?”—Rodney King
I apologize in advance: I won’t be funny today, at least not intentionally. Instead, very seriously, I make this plea: Cut it out, and get a grip.
It’s now a week later, and it seems the campaign is still going on. Some of us would really like to move on, thank you very much.
I know you didn’t ask, but here I offer some advice to all.
For everyone: Understand that no one is blameless. Stop taking offense at everything that doesn’t fall in line with your beliefs, and recognize the differences between emotion-backed opinion and facts.
It’s not an indictment of working-class whites to say that working-class whites without college degrees overwhelmingly voted for Trump when exit polls analyzed by the Pew Research Center showed “Trump’s margin among whites without a college degree is the largest among any candidate in exit polls since 1980.”
Differences of opinion are inevitable, and unless you live in a cave, you are among people with different beliefs than you every day. Respect those differences, don’t paint all your opponents with the same brush, and try—just try—to get along without expecting everyone to give you a safe space from things that might possibly offend you.
For those who voted for Hillary Clinton: Sorry. Spit out any sour grapes you may be gnawing on and don’t let yourself get too down or be baited by those who can’t let rationality or civility get in the way of some deserved gloating. When you respond in kind, it just perpetuates the cycle. Find a better standard-bearer. Pick yourself up, regroup, and start again.
For those who voted for Donald Trump: Congratulations, your guy won. However, realize that not everyone is happy with the results of the election, nor have they been happy with the entire campaign season that spent most of its time in the mud. It doesn’t help matters when so many feel they’ve been given license to run over everyone’s rights but their own and continue to deliberately antagonize anyone who might believe differently. (Talk about sore winners.)
People will protest what they don’t like, and as long as they stay peaceful (which most of the current ones have, with a few notable exceptions), they’re well within their rights. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to pay attention to it; there is no right not to be offended. And don’t forget history: There were indeed protests when Barack Obama was elected and re-elected, and the Tea Party movement is just one enduring example.
Accept that a large portion of the population is rightfully frightened of what the future has to hold, considering all the documented incidences of verbal and sometimes physical assaults on opponents, and the expressed views that place women, minorities, the LGBT community, immigrants and others in the cross-hairs of hateful rhetoric. This is what your candidate has advocated, and it has emboldened far too many people to continue the abuse past Election Day.
Reports of immigrant children being bullied, Muslim women’s hijabs ripped from their heads and the like are not what we should be hearing in a civilized society. If someone is attacked primarily because of ethnicity, religious beliefs, or gender, it’s discrimination. Pointing that out is not.
The media reports; that’s what it’s supposed to do. It isn’t its job to coddle any politician (though it happens, unfortunately). Reporting something you perceive as negative about your guy, or something positive about the opposition, isn’t proof of bias. If you look for bias, that’s all you will find. Objectively, most reputable news sources have little to no slant in overall content, and are not there to enable your confirmation bias. Yes, there are news sources that wear their prejudices on their sleeves, and many that are less than honest in their stories. If those are the only places you get your news, broaden your horizons.
For pollsters: Fix your antiquated polling techniques immediately or do as Gallup did and cease predictions on the presidential race. Your credibility is badly damaged, and you’ll have to work hard to repair it.
For President-elect Trump: Please, please, please control yourself, and lay off Twitter. Seek the advice of wise counsel, especially in regards to the costs and constitutionality of much of what you have proposed. Understand that when you wind people up with the sort of rhetoric you’ve used, there will be ramifications that can be felt for years. Take responsibility for your words and actions, and for their consequences. Most of all, surprise us by not being who you were on the campaign trail. Oh, and hire a fact-checker, please, for all our sanity; too many people believe everything you say, even when it’s not the least bit true or even halfway consistent.
For Secretary Clinton: Sorry you lost, but keep fighting for women and children, because they need the help. Understand that even though you lost, some people can’t let it go and will continue to attack you. Rise above.
For all of us: Breathe. Keep calm. Be civil. Laugh. Pet a cat or a dog. Be better. Enjoy life, because it goes on.
I’m proud to work for a newspaper that takes its role seriously and keeps news and opinion separated, something that’s unfortunately becoming rarer in a landscape damaged by disreputable players. If only most of the cable news outlets were more interested in news than what accusations are being flung, especially when there’s little to no evidence. (No, stories from hyperpartisan networks and websites with single sources and/or satire taken as truth don’t count.) Having spent the bulk of my career on the news side of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, I know how hard it can be to create the paper you read each morning.
I’m also grateful, in the more than five years I’ve been on the opinion side, that we manage most of the time to keep an overall balance of opinions between the two pages. Yes, I’m tough on fact-checking, but wise readers have figured out that the way to get a letter in is to be factual and/or make opinion clear. It also helps to keep it clean, give proper attribution, refrain from convicting people in print, and not harass staff or other letter-writers.
I really shouldn’t have to say that. And yet …
One last word, in honor of a great journalist, understated trailblazer and one tough cookie (well, she had to be). Gwen Ifill will be greatly missed by all of us who looked up to her and the example she set. Farewell, Gwen.