The 2016 election season was like no other in U.S. history. In its aftermath, some pundits say that the Clinton camp lost because it failed to reach out, listen to, and win the hearts of the white working class. Although one among many reasons, ignoring the so-called "rust belt" or "flyover zone" played a significant role, creating anger and disenchantment in the Heartland.
With the latest appointments made by the President-elect's transition team, my fear now is that we will not learn from our mistakes, that we will not heed the many Americans whose current level of fear is palpable, ranging from concerned to utterly terrified. Already, Muslim children -- and their parents -- are threatened and taunted, #blacklivesmatter activists dread the morning headlines that might tell the tragic story of yet another person of color killed by authorities, and nonwhite persons are menacingly told to “go back where they came from.” Lower-income people barely scraping by -- including many senior citizens -- are afraid of losing the health care coverage on which they’ve come to rely. LGBTQ persons and those of differing gender identities fear for their lives. Women increasingly feel unsafe as demeaning, derogatory taunts and unacceptable touching, long frowned upon in civilized society, are on the rise.
The political climate is ripe for invalidating these Americans, along with those in the Heartland, who feel disenfranchised.
If we do not empathetically listen to all of these voices -- even those with which we do not agree -- the societal fractures that came to light during the run-up to the election will continue to deepen. Without finding those points of intersection where we can find common ground, the fissures could lead to further violence and the destruction of human lives.
I am not advocating for normalizing or ignoring the troubling divisions and behaviors that have rocked the foundation of our republic. At Intersections, we are constantly challenged to bring disparate groups together in search of peaceful and socially just resolution to long-held conflicts. It is delicate and sensitive work.
In this time of great disharmony, we are ALL called to truly listen to the voices that feel ignored or fearful. We are called to open our own hearts and minds, and to find those common threads upon which to build a future where peace with justice -- and working together for the common good -- is not only possible, but a reality.
It will take all of us. Are you in?