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Election 2016: What will we have learned on Nov. 9?

By Paul Bardinas

For the Salisbury Post

Next Tuesday Donald Trump will lose this election and his supporters will have to decide how they cope with that fact, but more importantly, America will have to decide how it recovers from the corrosive effects of Trump and this election on the nation.

Trump has normalized bullying, bigotry, xenophobia, misogyny and sexism. He has undermined and delegitimized our democratic institutions. Trump has laid waste to the landscape of our public discourse and made casualties of our civility, decency and honesty. He has divided us more than ever. But Trump is just the symptom, not the cause.

The autopsy of this horrific election reveals several causes which contributed to his rise.

The first is a refusal by our elected officials and political elites to recognize and acknowledge the genuine anger and frustration felt by many Americans who feel ignored, taken for granted and left behind in a more global economy. Years of political obstruction and polarization and a failure on the part of both political parties to work effectively together and to reach compromise have failed to address the very pressing problems faced by our country and many of its most vulnerable.

The second cause is the culture created in a world where expression and human interaction is often limited to 140 electronic characters. While the technology revolution has helped make our world smaller than ever it has also made us more disconnected from each other. The proliferation of smart phones and social media has reduced our human experience to a series of texts, tweets and memes. The result of this disconnectedness has been a steady erosion of our humanity. The less time we spend genuinely engaging one another, the more we lose our ability to empathize with one another. The easier it becomes to vilify those with whom we disagree. The more vitriolic we become.

The last cause is the most disturbing and arguably the most dangerous. The proliferation of alternative media sources, created with the express purpose by groups to spread misinformation, propaganda or promote ideologies, has effectively created a world were facts have become subjective, a matter of individual opinion. These alternative sources, who willfully distort the truth, have undermined our traditional sources of information and helped foster a culture that makes it possible for a large percentage of Americans to believe things that are simply not true and to deny scientific evidence that is undeniable. This dark media has helped create the illusion of equivalence between facts and the false propaganda.

What, if anything, will we learn from this election?

I hope we will all wake up on Nov. 9 and begin the process of healing by coming together instead of retreating to respective corners. I hope we will reject Trump’s message of divisiveness, fear and hate. I hope we will reject the culture of misinformation and false equivalence that breathed life into this monster. I hope we encourage our elected officials to embrace compromise and constructive dialogue. I hope we will ask more of ourselves. I hope we will respect and genuinely listen to one another.

Paul Bardinas lives in Salisbury.

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