Empathizing with the Other: What We Learned from the 2016 Election

To all my friends and family in California, New York and in other areas of the country that are so upset about the election: please do not vilify Trump supporters. My little brothers told me that many of their high school classmates in San Francisco think that most of the country (i.e. Trump supporters) are terrible people. This cannot be further from the truth. During my two years living in Ohio, I was surrounded by wonderful, generous and caring people. Never did I hear a racist or sexist comment, never did I feel persecuted for being a woman or a Jew. I felt embraced and accepted.

The struggle of American rural families is real. Hamilton,  where I stayed briefly, used to house two giant paper mills. The city was vibrant and growing. But then in 2012, this changed when two of the hundred-year old paper mills closed within months of each other (visit the journal-news.com  article). Now they are converting the factories into tourist attractions. But what of the jobs that were lost? What of the families that depended on those paychecks? How much money do the CEO's of companies make by shipping jobs overseas and down South to Mexico?

Rural Ohio, like many other parts of the country, is riddled with drug problems. I remember during my time in Ohio meeting many young people addicted to methamphetamines, OxyContin, Adderall, heroin, alcohol and marijuana. Without jobs, without a future, what else is there to do? It is incredibly difficult to be a farmer or a factory worker anymore. There are fewer employment opportunities and the ones that are available do not pay much. A quick high eliminates your problems and makes you feel at ease.  My mother, who works in a teen rehab clinic, has seen this phenomenon firsthand.  How can you blame people for voting for the only person who speaks to their pain?

This being said, there is no excuse for the inflammatory rhetoric of the 2016 campaign. Both sides are guilty of labeling and dismissing entire demographic sections of this country. This does not help our divided nation heal and find common ground. I believe that leaders should encourage unity and not further sow divisions. We are all here because we love this country and I wish that more people would remember that. But no matter who you voted for, be careful of judging the other because you never know when you may need a brother or a sister's hand in a time of need. Let us pray that President Trump does what he promised and help his base reclaim the jobs and dignity that has been stolen from them. Please do not be so quick to judge your neighbor. Let us pray for peace and for this country.

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