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I never considered myself a political person until recently.

This was only the second time I had ever voted (my first was in the primaries), and trust me, there have been many opportunities for me to exercise this privilege since my 18th birthday. I abstained from local elections, never attended rallies, and generally steered away from political topics in conversation. While aware, I was passive. And when the new presidency was announced, I thought to myself, “Is there anything else I could’ve done?” even though I already knew. Complacency, at any point in the political process, has never been appropriate.

Many would say that, last night, they watched the country divide. I would say…where have you been this entire time? There’s always been hate. And although it’s true that I didn’t expect the outcome of this election, I was basing that expectation on the fact that people’s logic and reason—aside from a dedication to equality and justice—would sway their votes. I assumed that people would take a long look at the candidates’ credentials and experience, and choose the obvious choice. But while I hoped, I did not think that a majority of those undecided or Republican votes cast for Hillary were due to a fundamental belief that love trumps hate.

These things don’t happen overnight. Hatred is a long process, and it stems from distrust, repeated narratives, and most importantly, fear. The results of this election have revealed that we’ve put too many band-aids on issues that direly needed to be addressed. We haven’t done enough to combat ideologies that promote discrimination, xenophobia, bigotry, and misogyny. We’ve neglected to educate. Somehow, we’ve allowed over half our nation to feel as if the government does not care about them.

One interesting fact that I learned during last night’s coverage was that Trump supporters were often secretive. They wouldn’t outright declare their support, perhaps due to a fear of retaliation or judgement. Aside from the fact that feeling such shame for supporting a candidate is already indicative of larger underlying issues, the phenomenon itself just seems riddled with contradictions: you vote so you can make your voice heard…yet, you say nothing when others try to identify what issues resonate with you? Silence will not make change. So speak. The whole country is listening.

Right now, we need dialogue more than ever before. Complete influence can’t—or, at least, shouldn’t—be a matter of who dominates the political sphere. It isn’t sustainable to be trapped in a constant game of tug-of-war between those whose voices are heard and those whose aren’t heard. The issues that fueled the contention of this election can only be resolved through communication across different political groups, ethnicities, religions, gender and sexual orientations, and socioeconomic classes. Instead of passively accepting the nation’s fate, it is time to wake up and start addressing these from the bottom up.

I never considered myself a political person until recently. That was the problem.

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