Trump beat Clin­ton ... but we all lost in this elec­tion

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - Chris Freind Colum­nist

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.

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