It’s been two weeks since Joe Biden was announced as the winner of the 2020 presidential election and we have seen a wide range of reactions to the result. People flooded city streets with dance parties in celebration and with protests in disappointment. One administration flooded state courts with lawsuits and the other started creating plans for how they are going to lead the country when they take office on January 20th.
There was also a mass sharing of posts arguing that people should not break up friendships because of how they voted in this election, saying that it’s disrespectful and unfair to do so. Naturally, this sparked a debate that seemed to take over all social media platforms.
While the candidate you chose might not feel like enough justification to lose a friend, it’s more than enough when you consider the stances of the candidate. One of the candidates ran a campaign on unity and working together to create a better nation and one consistently tried to strip the rights away from people of color, women, the LGBT community and immigrants.
If you voted for somebody who has tried to make life harder for your peers, it is completely understandable that they would not want to still be friends with you. It is important to look past the name on the ticket and see how other people are affected by their actions. Some people decide their political decisions purely on what helps them the most, but politics are really for helping the nation as a whole.
The only way we can improve the world is by thinking empathetically, not only in politics, but in all aspects of life. Taking the time to think about how your actions will affect others is something that we learn in elementary school, yet somewhere along the way we seem to forget.
Most of the issues that plague this nation revolve around a lack of empathy, and can easily be extinguished if we all thought a little more empathetically. An example of this is homelessness and how homeless people are treated.
According to Endhomelessness.org, 567,715 people were reported homeless in 2019. When we see them on the street, we often walk faster, avoid eye contact and do everything to make sure we do not have to interact with them. We may feel bad for their situation, but immediately we squander that guilt by putting the blame on the person instead of the system that has pushed them to homelessness.
Instead of avoiding homeless people on the street, think about how it would feel to not have a roof over your head, heating in your house for cold nights, consistent food on the dinner table or a family to rely on. You don’t have to offer up your guest bed or give them an entire new wardrobe, but by putting yourself in their shoes, you will see the unfortunate conditions of their life and how small things can go a long way. Giving them your leftovers, buying them fresh socks and clothing that they may need or even just giving them a few bucks can make their lives much more comfortable.
We can also vote for legislators who pledge to create more shared housing and resources for those without a home. When our friend falls down, we reach out our hand and lift them right back up. We should strive to do the same for those who don’t have anybody to rely on. Our society perpetually punishes the homeless population because it makes us feel better about not helping more, but by creating the infrastructure to give them basic necessary living conditions, we can work towards eliminating homelessness in our country for good.
We can talk about it all day, but nothing will ever actually get done unless we listen to opposing viewpoints with an open mind. Most of the issues that plague our country can be solved purely by listening to the opposition and trying to find a way to compromise for the greater good.
With the fight for racial equality ever ongoing, the country has seemingly been divided into two sides. One side acknowledges the discrimination and disadvantages that people of color face every single day and wants to change how this country is run in order to create a more equal society, and one side feels that as if raising up others would strip them of many luxuries that they enjoy in life and do not want to suffer for the benefit of their peers.
If we continue to stay divided with no effort to reach across the aisle, no progress will ever be made. However, if we listen to the other side and try to imagine how their lives are affected by the issue at hand, then we can work through these problems that plague this country and start to make change for the better.
It is easy to go through life only worrying about yourself, making decisions purely based off of how it’ll benefit you. It is important to remember that there is always somebody less fortunate than you, somebody without the many basic privileges that most of us take for granted every day.
Instead of denouncing protestors, ask yourself why they feel the need to protest. Instead of dismissing homeless people as lazy drug addicts who just aren’t working hard to better their lives, think about how hard it must be to get a job without clean clothes, a good night’s rest or a shower easily accessible.
Before you shame your peers for breaking off friendships over who you voted for, think about how the candidate you voted for spewed disrespect and bigotry at the communities that your friend identifies with and how it affected their life.
Ben Goldberger is a sophomore at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville majoring in Anthropology and Political Science. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
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