Have one or more of the following happened to you? You weren’t happy with the way things were before the 2016 election. You felt that neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton were compelling and/or acceptable candidates. You were surprised (and not in a good way) when Donald Trump won the election. You are concerned, upset, or scared about where the United States is headed. You don’t approve of specific policies, appointments, or executive orders being made by the new regime.
In my last two posts, Amusing Ourselves to Death and Searching for Truth in the Crowd, I have said that in order to fix the problems in our society, we need to improve our public discourse. Instead of shouting at each other and clinging to our own strongly held beliefs, we need to foster a more constructive dialog, whether that be online or in person. We humans tend to feel very strongly about our own beliefs, asserting our beliefs are true, and that everyone’s beliefs are wrong, or at the very least misguided.
I recently read Neal Postman’s prophetic work, Amusing Ourselves to Death, and have since been pondering its premise and warnings. I am struck how a book, written in 1985, has so accurately predicted the course of American society. It paints a picture of how the eroding of our public discourse has brought about the kinds of social an political change we have seen, as well as the political figures who have risen to power.
During the course of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, many have pointed out that he doesn’t tell the truth, and that he has even doubled down on his statements when the media have pointed out his falsehood. It may be easy to forget, sometimes, that these statements have been made, or to simply laugh and move on with life, but I assert that statements like these have a damaging effect upon society.
During this election cycle, and still afterward, there has been a great contrast in how different people perceive the presidential candidates. To some, Trump is an anti-establishment truth-sayer who will make America strong and great. To others, he is a dangerous fear monger and divider, who treats women and minority groups with disrespect and malice. To some, Hillary seems just as bad; a power-hungry and untrustworthy establishment politician, who is ready and willing abandon principles in the pursuit of political and personal gain.
So, it’s been almost a week since election day here in the U.S., and as the shock of the result washes over family and friends, I too have been trying to come to grips with 1) Is this really happening?, 2) What’s going to happen next?, and 3) How could things have come to this? There are a lot of strong emotions out there covering the whole spectrum, from joy to horror and everything in between.