I grew up in a small town called Port Lavaca, Texas. I lived there for 15 years of my life. I attended elementary, middle, and high school with pretty much the same group of people. Some of my former classmates whom I grew up beside are Republicans. To narrow it down further, some supported Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
To say that I differ ideologically from Trump supporters is an understatement. We hold very different opinions on many hot-button issues, from immigration to energy policy to how well President Trump is fulfilling his job. Nowhere does it show more prominently than on Facebook. We live in an age where we are accustomed to broadcasting our beliefs and commenting on current issues through social media.
Did it make me uncomfortable to see posts blasting people who opposed Trump's racist and sexist remarks on the campaign trail, people like me, as "liberal snowflakes"? Did anger flare up in my chest when I saw complaints about being inconvenienced at the airport while thousands protested far more grave inconveniences of valid document-holders, those who were barred from returning home or seeking sanctuary? Do I feel frustrated when I see re-posts of Fox News articles praising what I believe are blunders by President Trump?
And yet, these are real people I've known. Acquaintances, if not friends, at some point in my life. They are not monsters. Strip away the political differences, and therein lies a lot more in common than you would think. They work hard toward their futures. They love and cry and indulge in hobbies. They have issues they care about and were taught, just like you and me, to stand up for what they believe in.
I remember the night of November 8. The despair, the disbelief. The feeling that my fellow citizens had betrayed my faith in our country.
I stared across the chasm as the earth split open
And one by one my countrymen jumped to the other side.
Or maybe they had been standing there the whole time,
Maybe my faith in democracy had rendered me blind.
-Shannon Wang, The Chasm
Above is a verse pulled from a poem I wrote as the election results rolled out, state by state. It was a time where the divide between "us" and "them" felt so deep it seemed impossible to reconcile. We had to accept the decisions of other Americans even as we opposed their vision for our future.
It's easy to acknowledge the chasm dividing the country. It's infinitely more difficult to reach across it. But we can never heal the divide if we continue to push each other away, refusing to listen to those that disagree with us. If we block every news headline we disagree with. If we refuse to see the humanity of those on the "other side" and the similarities we share.
Don't get me wrong. I don't believe that we shouldn't criticize those we disagree with or actions we believe are wrong. But we must try to understand the mindsets of those who have contrasting political, social, and economical beliefs from us. Even if we cannot see the logic in their arguments at first. We have to parse out their reasoning, even if we have to wade through a pile of anger and slights to get to the core of it. Trump supporters will not go away when Trump is no longer in office. They will still be citizens of the United States with a stake and a say in their country.
So why don't I unfriend Trump supporters on Facebook? The same reason I still follow Fox News (alongside other major news sources). Simply put, it's because we need to hear what others are saying even if we vehemently disagree with them. That's the only way we can move forward in this tumultuous time of our nation.