Though, as a country, we have made strides towards our founding belief that all people are created equal, the way this progress is perceived, disseminated to, and acted upon by the general public has often reminded us just how much work remains—on both a systemic and grassroots level. We have grown more conscious of intolerance and injustice and demanded greater respect for our historically-marginalized communities, but yet, hateful messages and actions persist in many ways and all across the country. So how have we arrived here, and what can we do about it? I do not pretend to know for sure with great accuracy. But I know we have had disagreements over the direction of our communities and our country throughout history and have been able to discuss these issues civilly within our political sphere. Today, I worry that this ability may be eroding, and these problems are only made worse by the intolerant rhetoric spewing outward from the Presidential election.
I understand there is blame to go around—in truth, no one is without some responsibility. But when Donald Trump suggests that the Secret Service guarding Hillary Clinton should not be armed, just to “see what might happen,” I fear we have done more than just reach a new low in this Presidential race. I believe we have, in essence, authorized politically compatible citizens—who in many cases are legitimately frustrated Americans—to take actions that were never before thought as acceptable for any person.
At a time when we should be debating the best way to grow the economy, take care of our infrastructure, deal with the challenge of immigration, and preserve our nation’s security—just to name a few—instead what we see all too often looks like a food fight. This was made possible by irresponsible Republican candidates who failed to step up and seriously challenge the Donald. And, of course, the press always likes a horse race, so they did their best to provide him with as much free publicity as possible. But the outcome of this election will be decided by the people—one-by-one—who enter the voting booth, and before they do so, I strongly urge them to consider this question: Do we really want to elect a President whose primary “accomplishment” so far has been to bring out the worst in us?
All of this is now playing out in the area where I grew up—the place I originally learned the importance of community and the value of mutual respect. I have been encouraged by the response from the Lindsborg and Bethany College community, who have rallied around their leader and his family to affirm their support for a more inclusive campus and community. Though this supportive response doesn’t come as a surprise to me, I believe it sends a strong message to those who spew hate that the revolting actions they have threatened will not be tolerated. I also want to believe that come November 8th we will have significant positive results, so the message of darkness will have suffered a setback and, as a country and a state, we will have some hope for a stronger, more united future.