The American dream is about dignity. We want to look ourselves in the mirror and live with the choices we have made that have created the image that stares back at us. Imagine standing alone in a dressing room. We can claim the mirror distorts our proportions obsessing over every inch of our appearance. We can argue the lighting terribly casts an intentionally unflattering effect to make us look our worst. We can even rationalize ourselves into believing that we are incompatible with any options available to us in the pursuit of self-improvement. The excuses will always change our reasons for scrutinizing what stares back at us, but there is always one absolute truth: the mirror cannot lie.
"Honest confrontation with that which makes us uncomfortable is what led to the results of this election cycle."
Democracy is a mirror held by the American people. We are expected to hold its weight with responsibility asking ourselves what changes can we make to reflect progress. Salesman tell you pretty words. They inflate your choice with exaggerated certainty. You never question their sincerity because your lack of confidence is conquered and reservations temporarily repressed. In the absence of that constant affirmation you find yourself vulnerable to the most innocuous observations. That lack of preparation for an honest examination leads to unnecessary fragility.
Suddenly, the words of a friend feel like the harsh attacks from an enemy. Normal familial disagreements devolve into battles with strangers you are related to. We flee the pain and seek asylum in like-minded kindness, acceptance, and, yes, even tolerance. Running from the mirror with our eyes closed and hands pressed firmly to our ears, we retreat from our fears. Honest confrontation with that which makes us uncomfortable is what led to the results of this election cycle.
There is this mass assumption that those who voted for Donald Trump were solely and singularly motivated by hate and are uneducated. That careless perception, peddled to only see the flaws, dismissed any further inquiry into understanding why so many Americans were unhappy with Hilary Clinton as the alternative choice. Educated and good people also voted for Trump. We all know someone we respect who did. Yes, there are great, wonderful, and incredibly beautiful aspects to life in this country, but there are also sobering realities. Without devolving into divisive details, we can all agree this election has revealed the fractures in the glass.
It is precisely because we can disagree with one another that we should not only listen, but try to understand one another's grievances. We should not apologize for what we think, but rather employ a constant reevaluation of how we think. The concept of Democracy does not change, but what value we see in it can – if we are willing.
Do not allow heartbreak or boastful ignorance to damage your faith in good people who simply differ in their approach to progress. Sadness means we know happiness exists. Disappointment means we are capable of hope. Frustration means we care.
We can allow fear of what we don't understand control us like it motivated some to vote for one candidate over another. Yes, even voting for a candidate as "the lesser of two evils" is a vote motivated by fear. The more difficult yet meaningful choice is to be brave, acknowledge all of the fractures in our society, and make a conscious decision to confront the reflection. Look beyond the skin deep imperfections that we can never change and appreciate the motivating opportunity to improve what we can.