Concluding a contentious election cycle, President Donald Trump was finally sworn into office last Friday in Washington. The nation — and the world — kept their eyes fixed on the mix of supporters and protesters who attended the event. In that moment, the reality of what had happened set in: a portion of the American public saw Trump’s appointment as a battle that was won, and for others, a battle lost. Moving forward, however, another challenge has been presented that Americans must not lose: Citizens must learn to differentiate agreement from understanding.
The group of people who helped get Trump elected have a unique and, frankly, unequal responsibility to do this. Not because they voted for Trump, but because of how easy it is to forget the concerns of the losing team. Single-story narratives are never an adequate substitute to the myriad human experiences tied to an issue.
Conversely, those who are opposed to a Trump presidency must remember the faces behind each vote. A number of people felt that the Republican candidate would satisfy their hopes for the country. In spite of those who wish for injustice, protesters must believe in the general goodness of others to ensure that the next four years are not met with constant conflict.
The Baylor Lariat traveled to Washington to cover the inauguration and Women’s March. We were met by people from all over the country, and in talking to both supporters and protesters, common themes began to emerge.
At the inauguration, we talked to a woman who was relieved that Trump had won because she could not afford to go to the doctor under the Affordable Care Act. The next day, we met with a man at the Women’s March protesting what he believed to be a rise in bigotry. While these two individuals might not have agreed politically, they both shared a common feeling: fear. This emotion prompted both Americans to take action, and yet political differences seem to have pitted citizens from both groups against each other.
Faith was another aspect that seemed to tie both protesters and supporters at the inauguration together. While one man said he saw Trump’s presidency as “an act of mercy” from God, a Muslim woman at the same event said she was afraid of those who believe an Islamaphobic ideology had been validated.
Those who were disappointed with the outcome of the election span far beyond Hillary Clinton supporters and millennials. Throughout our time in Washington, we saw brothers, daughters, mothers and fathers of all faiths and races exercising their right to protest. Just like the people who showed up to watch Trump get inaugurated, this too was America.
Understanding the feelings of those who fear that an aspect of their livelihood is being compromised does not mean you must agree, but it is a move toward respect. This past year and a half proved to be more of a marathon than a sprint. Politics permeated the most intimate parts of our lives — filling our homes, work and social lives with news and tough conversations. At times, it seemed as if the election was inescapable and what resulted was a fully invested electorate. So for the sake of knowing what we have all gone through, an attempt to make progress despite existing division must be made. This can only be done if we seek to understand our neighbor and take active strides to move forward together.