I seem to rarely write a blog post spontaneously these days. Yet the events of 8-9 November in the United States have compelled me to do so. Because, quite honestly, I am finding 2016 to be a truly baffling year. I wrote back in July about my sadness over the result of the EU Referendum (or “Brexit” – a term I am frankly sick of!). As we all digested the outcome of our decision on this side of the Atlantic, attentions turned to the US Presidential race.
Let’s be honest, both of the main contenders were flawed…in different ways and (in my view) to different degrees but flawed nonetheless. Whilst I’m not American and it was not my decision to make, I was rooting for Hillary; Too many of Trumps statements around women’s rights alone did not sit well with me. As the results came in I found myself saddened again. But this post isn’t a political one; There will be more than enough to read in the media about that. What I feel compelled to write about is the fact that both these outcomes were such a big surprise. That both of these outcomes were in complete contrast (especially in the case of the US election) to what all polls and pundits expected. Which begs the question – do ‘we’ really understand our own society?
Both the UK and the USA claim to have freedom of speech, to be open and accommodating. Yet in the case of both recent rounds of campaigning we’ve seen such extreme reactions from parts of the population. Just look at some of the footage from the Trump rallies; He managed with relative ease to get stadiums of people so wound-up. So angry. Similar reactions were seen before and after our own referendum vote; People suddenly abusing strangers who didn’t conform to a white ‘British’ image. I could not relate to what I was seeing.
What I have taken away from the events of recent months is that clearly a significant portion of our society do not feel they can share their honest views. They don’t feel they are being heard. If they did then we would have all foreseen success for the ‘Leave’ campaign and for Trump. I don’t understand how this undercurrent of frustration and discontent has gone unnoticed. Are too many of us quick to judge and denounce the views of others when they don’t mesh with our own? Have politicians been burying their heads in the sand about how strongly some people feel on topics like immigration? Or is it nothing like that at all and people were just bored and fancied seeing what would happen if they went against the establishment?
So where am I going with this? I’m not completely sure to be honest. But after events of the last 6 months, I think we need to reflect on how things reached this point. We need to make sure that people can speak openly about their views and be heard. We may hear things we don’t individually like. But surely it’s better to have an uncomfortable conversation than leave people feeling they can only express their true feeling anonymously whilst making world-altering decisions?