How did we get here?

I don’t know if you are aware, but we are currently near the end of the most horrifying presidential race I’ve ever experienced.  Many of you may be thinking that I am referring to the fact that people have to choose between two awful candidates (I’m not, I don’t think Hillary Clinton is “the lesser of two evils;” I think she is very qualified to serve as President of the United States and agree with her platform and policies).  No, this is the most awful race I’ve seen because of the public hate for the side that is not your own.  Folks, this is bad; this is really bad.  It has gotten so bad that people are actually afraid to publicly support the candidate they support.  Read that last sentence again.  People are AFRAID to publicly support a candidate.  I have to put a disclaimer here: I have done zero research on instances of voter violence or property vandalism; I am only voicing what I have observed in my (very small) community.

I have recently started voicing my political opinion on Facebook.  I don’t do this by sharing ridiculous memes or hyperbolic “news” articles;  I just share opinion articles that I agree with and add my comments when appropriate.  I did once attempt to ask a thought provoking question about the Constitution, but that went up in flames like an old barn stuffed with straw soaked with lighter fluid.  Anyway, I don’t post anything that could be considered offensive or derogatory; I just post my opinion.  Well, naturally, my posts have come up in conversation — real conversation, like person-to-person conversation with people I actually know in the real world.  My social circle encompasses all sorts of people: pastors, students, university professors, farmers, lawyers, retirees and everyone in between.

I pretty much know where everyone lies politically, so it was no surprise when my more liberal leaning friends voiced support of my posts (again, #imwithher).  What was surprising was the conversation that often comes next.  Someone, more than one someone actually, told me that they wished they felt free to be as bold as I was being on my Facebook page.  Again, I’m not being loud or disparaging.  I’m not saying whatever comes to mind or voicing my most private thoughts in free association like stream of word vomit.  I am exploring all sides to arguments in a pretty fair and very controlled manner.  So I was curious as to why this made me “bold”.  It made me bold because I took a side that is unpopular in my region.

I have friends that are worried that if they publicly voice their political opinion too much, they will face social repercussions, have their property vandalized, or even become the victim of physical violence.  Seriously folks, this presidential election has gotten so out of control that people are worried for their physical safety, their property, and their financial security if they share what they think in a public forum.  

Let me say this again because it is so important to understand.  PEOPLE ARE AFRAID TO PUBLICLY VOICE THEIR POLITICAL OPINION!  This can’t just be happening in my social circle.  The country is pretty much split 50/50 on the nose; the race is so close right now that there really is no clear winner (no matter what partisan media outlets are telling you).  As I drive my usually path to and from home and around town, I see many houses and cars showing their support for Donald Trump.  In fact, I have only seen 2 yard signs for Hillary Clinton.  To, be fair, Tennessee is historically Republican, so one would expect to see more support for the Republican nominee; however, I know there has to be a few Clinton supporters in the area because my own, fairly large, social circle is split about 50/50, just like the rest of the country.

There are many houses in my usually traveled route with no signs.  Could these people too be Clinton supporters who are afraid of repercussions if they voice their support?  Are they afraid that, because they have a blue yard sign, someone will vandalize their home?  Are they afraid that they will get jumped in a parking lot for having an #imwithher bumper sticker?  Are they afraid that they will lose their job if they like the wrong post? If so, this is a sad, sad commentary on our society.  

This election has stripped our society of the very essence of what it means to be American — individuality.  Harry Truman once said, “When even one American – who has done nothing wrong – is forced by fear to shut his mind and close his mouth – then all Americans are in peril.”

We are in peril.  The reaction to this election is un-American.  It’s un-American because America was founded on the freedom to choose.  American is the land with no king, no ruling elite, no dictator — no one telling you how to think or how to be.  We are the land of the free and the home of the brave.  When did everything change?  When did we become a country where dissent from the majority is dangerous?  When were we transported into a country with a dangerous regime that threatened our safety if we disagree?  Has America become Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, or Mussolini’s Italy?

No, we are different from all those other places because this isn’t coming from the leaders, this is coming from the people.  We the people are denying each other the freedoms our great country was founded on.  We the people are the fascist dictators because we the people are the ones we fear.  We fear our neighbors, our family, and our friends.  We fear our colleagues, those who share a pew with us on Sundays, and those who teach our children.  We are afraid of being singled out.  So afraid in fact that we can’t stand together publicly.

I’m not encouraging anyone to stand with me because the truth is that your fear is a wise fear.   This election has changed people; it has changed America.  There are people who can’t be public about what they think and that’s not going to change in the next three days.  This election will hopefully go down in history as unique.  Unique because we cannot let this happen again.  We cannot let opinions cause fear.  We cannot restrict people’s freedom to choose.  We must, no matter who wins this election, unite for the preservation of this country.  There is no “us” and there is no “them”; there is only “we” as in:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

No leader, no president, no one person can fix this.  We are all equal under the constitution. We all have the right to voice our political opinions without fear because this country has never been, is not now, and will never be made up of just one kind of people.  We are, to use yet another cliche, a melting pot.  We are the humbled masses. We are the people.  

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