Trump beat Clinton ... but we all lost in this election
In what has been the nastiest, most close-minded contest in American history, the candidates’ respect for each other was nonexistent, personal insults were commonplace, and tolerance for the “other side” vanished, replaced by bitter partisan attitudes and vitriolic attacks. What the hell has happened to us?
As leaders, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton should have known that millions looked to them for guidance, and that their actions — good and bad — would be emulated, especially by younger generations. Unfortunately, the bad far outweighed the good. And that is a reflection of the society we have chosen to become.
Common decency and good manners, once so prevalent, have become casualties in our allabout-me entitlement society.
How did it get this way? And how did it happen so quickly?
• In part, because many now deem it perfectly acceptable to hide behind social media while demonizing others. Or shout obscenities at the motorist ahead who didn’t stomp on the accelerator the second the light turned green. Or insult someone at the ATM because we’re “inconvenienced” by waiting a whopping two minutes.
Manners, let alone etiquette, have become foreign concepts.
• Social media addiction has created an insular cocoon for millions, stripping away personal skills and producing generations completely oblivious to traditional social mores. Now, instead of talking person-to-person to gain insight and feel empathy, it’s all too easy to demonize those with whom we disagree by blasting away on Facebook or Twitter or chat rooms. Personal insults? No problem. Slander someone (and his family) with wildly false accusations because it fits into one’s fanciful narrative? Sure thing. Link people to offthe-wall conspiracy theories to discredit them, facts — and reputations — be damned? You bet. And for what? Simply because we disagree with a political position or corporate stance, or don’t like what someone has to say.
• Partly it’s because the idea of service — valuing others above oneself, and performing good deeds because it’s the right thing to do — has mostly disappeared. Once we had a multitude of social organizations, from the Knights of Columbus to the Rotary Club to Scouting, where members interacted with each other and worked for the good of the community. But they are sad ghosts of the past, casualties of a Millennial generation that considers anything interfering with Netflix binge-watching and Instagram posts to be sacrilegious.
• And partly it’s because we have allowed ourselves to succumb to political correctness, where tolerance is now a foreign concept, and reasonable discussion is often shot down as racist, bigoted, shaming, hurtful, insensitive, and otherwise “offensive.” The majority may disagree with the PC police, but their silence in opposing them has become a tacit endorsement of the hypersensitive society we’ve become.
This election has seen not just insults from the candidates directed at the other (and their supporters), but in many cases the complete dissolution of longtime friendships, where people refuse to speak with anyone who disagree with them. That’s not just narrow-minded, but very sad.
We have all lost during this election because we have accepted — and in fact contributed to — the culture of disrespect that has gripped America and threatens to divide us like never before. Will this election (and the new administration) become the new normal, where insults and intolerance rule the day?
Or will we put an end to it, right here and now, and demand that civility and respect once again become the cornerstones of our society?
The choice is ours.