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Communication in a Sensitive Political Environment

Election Day 2016 is a day that will be remembered for years to come. For some, tears of anguish, sadness and despair rained down upon the day. For others, feelings of joy, vindication, and validation of a perspective resonated. College campuses around the world cancelled classes and exams to process the events of the night before. And finally at Hopkins, there was a mixture of emotions with clouds of gloom and despair interspersed with feelings of joy and optimism.

Up until the morning of the election, The New York Times had projected a range of around an 85% chance of a win for Clinton, with Trump at 15%. It was subsequently a shock to the world when the polls, the media, and pure statistics were all defied, and the world woke up to face the reality that 2016 would not see America’s first female president.

For instance: here is the story of two hypothetical students at Hopkins. Emma always supported Donald Trump. However, she was perpetually afraid to express her opinion for fear of retaliation from her classmates. While she didn’t like all the rhetoric that Trump had, she believed in his basic point and ability to change. Frustrated by the political standstill that current government was facing, she appreciated Trump’s status as an outsider to politics and his blunt straightforwardness. She took him seriously but not literally.

David on the other hand, takes Trump literally, but not seriously. He is appalled to imagine the consequences of a Trump election and is an avid supporter of Hillary Clinton. Prior to Election Day, he was confident in Clinton’s success. Nevertheless, both Emma and David avoided political discussions with each other as they were nervous to create unnecessary tension.

After the results of the election, each student’s emotions skyrocketed. Emma was ecstatic, relieved that her frustration was finally going to be addressed, while David was heartbroken that America had just regressed a century. With such strong emotions, they were unsure of how to speak with each other.  Could they share their views with each other? Could one try to understand the other’s opinion? And finally, could they come together as unified citizens of the United States of America?

America is like a high school full of students like Emma and David. Everyone has a relative, friend, or acquaintance who does not agree with them on a political issue and thus is faced with the impossible question of how to communicate. It can be tempting to avoid conversation with those who disagree, to avoid conflict by keeping silent.

Yet the democracy of our country is dependent upon the arguments of opposing opinions. We have a bi-partisan democracy so that no single source of power can succeed; the country functions by a series of checks and balances. 
Especially in the aftermath of a worldwide phenomenon such as this, we must share our opinions and do so with respect and sensitivity for those who may not be in agreement. By the First Amendment, all Americans have the right to unrestrained free speech, but there is something to be said for respecting others’ opinions and realizing that everyone might not be in agreement. The name calling and abusive language widely prevalent on social media arguably has no place even in elementary school. Sensitivity and appropriate foresight are crucial, especially when two million more than half the population are now hurting: protests are rampant, flags are being burned, and walls are being painted with offensive slurs.

The same logic of sensitivity with regards to controversial decisions applies to the Hopkins bubble. Seniors must employ discretion in their reception of college notification and realize that while many will (hopefully) receive wonderful news, many unfortunately will not. Juniors should advertise their standardized tests results with respect and understanding. The quintessential example of sharing and asking about grades is an example of an instance when sensitivity and respect are also needed. In times such as these, it is critical to remember others’ feelings and realize that while you may be happy, others may be hurting. This little drama is played out every year in every grade. Whether it is college admissions, SAT scores, final exam results, and everyday tests, the choice is not between open, brash exultation and keeping quiet completely. The decision is to channel one’s respects and wishes while not trampling on the hopes and dreams of others.

Let’s agree to disagree with each other, but let’s not ignore the fact that we are all part of one, united America, and disagreeing does not make us enemies. At the end of the day, we will all love Mom’s apple pie, baseball, and put our hands on our hearts when the national anthem plays. Patriots come in all shapes, sizes, and types, from dark red to dark blue. But at the end of the day, we all love red, blue, and white.

Many families’ Thanksgivings were ripped apart because of the election. With the tools of sensitivity and respect, let’s not ruin the upcoming holiday season as well.
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The Razor's Edge reflects the opinion of 4/5 of the editorial board and will not be signed. The Razor welcomes letters to the editor but reserves the right to decide which letters to publish, and to edit letters for space reasons. Unsigned letters will not be published, but names may be withheld on request. Letters are subject to the same libel laws as articles. The views expressed in letters are not necessarily those of the editorial board.
     
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