Pre-Election 2016: The Power

Posted by Jason Gladfelter, M.A. on October 26, 2016  /   Posted in Articles

In everyday life, how much do you care about total strangers? It’s safe to say that you don’t really think all much about them. Apart from brief encounters (at the market, while driving, etc.), your feeling towards strangers is most likely indifference.  You don’t know enough about them to like them or hate them. There’s nothing wrong with indifference. Ascribing “like” or “hate” to everyone you encounter just doesn’t make sense, but we still teach our kids to be polite to strangers.

And for the most part, we are polite. We don’t really take notice of this because it is so common. What we do notice and remember, however, are the exceptions; the rude customer, a snappy waiter, or the slow poke in the left lane. Being polite, or not being rude, is the downhome American way.  It’s one of America’s best attributes, and it holds up well through our differences. Even Red Sox and Yankee fans can get along…sometimes.

So why do we get so worked up over Donald and Hillary? Why does the fervor over who supports whom create so much animosity and disgust? The overarching answer is simple: because we allow it.  Office seekers have been playing with our emotions, identities, fears and hope for so long that we overlook their meddling hands. There is a reason why this election campaign has seen so many personal attacks by both candidates, the media, supporters and bystanders. Mudslinging is all we know these days. Politicians have skillfully maneuvered us away from the intricacies of policy, governance, foreign relations and domestic liberties, and towards the simplistic ad hominem attacks prevalent in just about every political (and many non-political) topics.  And this has carried over into our social interactions, about which politicians care very little.

So here we are, giving one stranger (Donald or Hillary) the absolute power to dictate how we, as individuals, treat each other.   They push our buttons, buttons that they have installed on us. They diverted our attention away from issues and problem solving and onto demonizing each other under the guise of protecting us. But here’s the thing: They are only as powerful as we make them. The real power in America resides in its people, individually and collectively. The strength to listen, learn and teach. The power to innovate, invent and create.

Each of us has our own agency. Our power resides in how we think, feel, behave, interact and socialize. We have the power to build, shape and improve our society. We have the power to ignore (and punish) mudslinging, to actually analyze our situations and come up with solutions. You have the power over yourself, your buttons and your attitudes to be nice, respectful and civil to your fellow citizens. We are actual power of the U.S.A.  The stranger who takes office will very quickly forget us; your friends and family will not. Will indifference matter then?

 

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