Under a Common Sky: Post-Election Thoughts

Today’s post was supposed to be about how to have the “Money Talk” with your child, but given the mood and my many hurting friends, it doesn’t feel right to move on to that quite yet. Connor has already written about her response to the election. I hope you’ll read that, and this, and that we can move forward together in conversation, empathy, and understanding.

 

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On my desk are two pictures of my older children. To my left is a picture of Zuzzy taken back when she was in pre-k. She stands in front of a simple painting of the world, smiling while looking in the wrong direction. In the middle of my desk is a picture of Zack on his 1st birthday, sitting on his lion truck, bringing all of his chubby baby cheeks to bear. (To my right, I have a spot reserved for Liza, my youngest.)

These pictures usually warm my soul, but today? I well up with tears.

Looking at pictures of my children brings back memories of them at that age while envisioning what they’ll be like as adults—a fondness for the past swirled with hope for the future. Today is different. Today, I’m worried for their future. Not because of the president-elect*, but because of our climate of fear and hate.

The danger of appealing to base emotions and fear is that it creates divisions, cliques. Galvanizing factions through fear and hate may be effective marketing, but it makes things very challenging as far as governing a diverse body.

Team Colors

Here’s how marketing works: A consumer-oriented business paints a profile, called an avatar, of their ideal customer, then tries to understand what pain this avatar experiences and creates a solution.

But how to most effectively reach this avatar? Studies find that people “better remember and more frequently recall ads that portray fear than they do warm or upbeat ads.”

The study also states that “fear is more powerful than reason,” and “stronger fear appeals bring about greater attitude, intention, and behavior changes.”

Basically, fear motivates. It makes us do things, sometimes irrationally, to put us at ease. Turn up the fear knob and you get more results. Politicians have used this strategy for ages, but never, so it seems, has it been so targeted and intense. So nasty. Trump may be an iffy businessman, but he’s a hell of a marketer.

I worry that this is the new playbook. That candidates will turn this past—now proven—result into future strategy. That these team colors only get uglier with time.

Political Cartoons

The ugliness of this campaign manifests in the ugliness with which we view Americans who voted differently from us. We are complex and multidimensional, but we turn each other into caricatures with over-pronounced features.

  • Bad hair and puckered lips: We see Trump supporters as racists, xenophobes, Islamophobes, misogynists. Some may be, but the picture behind the caricature shows those who feel left behind in a recovery that has disproportionately benefited others. They feel unheard, unappreciated, and marginalized.
  • Big teeth and apple cheeks: We see Hillary supporters as rich, out-of-touch elitists, communists, or lazy minorities. Some may be but, again, there is a picture behind the caricature—of those who feel like society has disproportionately favored people who are different than they are. They feel unheard, unappreciated, and marginalized.

Our true faces look more alike than we care to admit. We both feel unheard and unappreciated by the other. We both feel marginalized. But when we fear, we only allow ourselves to see our hurt and not that of others. Fear makes us selfish. When we’re surrounded by it and acting on it, we create an occlusion effect and only allow for a similar voice to resound.

But an echo chamber can be a cave —it’s time to get out and pick up the pieces of broken trust.

The Glass

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We’re a smashed glass, broken and scattered, immensely hard to piece back together. It takes years—and many pricked fingers—to undo the level of hate that’s crystallizing here. Reconstruction is a brittle process but necessary if we’re really going to make America great again.

To do that, we need to welcome differences. Differences when working toward a common goal make us stronger, not weaker. We need to seek commonality and show empathy. We are more alike than we are different, and each of us matters.

In my prior post, I advocated that we vote for ourselves. Today, I urge us to vote for each other.

Let’s pick up our hurting friends because this election seems like a confirmation of their suspicion that this country rejects them. Let’s root on our long-suffering friends who have newfound optimism that their voices were finally heard. Let’s seek both of their prosperity.

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(Hate is not our true face. Zuzzy, the world is not as simple as that map would make it seem)

Let’s look past our caricatures and look at each other’s true faces, rich with history and nuance. Let’s remember, fondly, times when someone different than us showed love and grace. We are under a common sky, and as sure as the sun rises tomorrow, there is a chance to believe in each other again.


*I reject the notion that a politician will have a say on my or my family’s success.

Next: How to First Talk About Money with Your Kids

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8 Comments

  • amileinmyshoes November 10, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    Yes to all of this! We are all the same, and no doubt people voted for what they believe in was best for America. I admit, I can’t get over Trump getting in, but I do know someone who voted for him. He’s an immigrant (the irony) but it was down to financials for him. He isn’t a bad person and doesn’t agree with a lot of Trumps’ policies. Now, as you say, people need to try and pull together for the common good.

    Reply
    • justmakingcentscom November 10, 2016 at 6:12 pm

      Thanks Beth! I hope for your friend’s sake that his bet pays off. How’s the political climate in Scotland?

      Reply
      • amileinmyshoes November 10, 2016 at 6:35 pm

        We had a referendum to leave the UK and go out on our own. Many were terrified about what currency we’d use and business etc. It was almost half, with the ‘stays’ winning by a sliver. Then there was Brexit. Interestingly most of Scotland wanted to stay in the EU, but it was tough because we’re part of the UK and so we had to leave. Again it was almost 50/50 with us leaving. I felt when Brexit was confirmed, anything could happen. Most folk didn’t understand what they were voting for. For a while racism was up and things that were previously unacceptable became more normal. It might have calmed down a bit, or it’s more ‘normal’ and not in the media – I’m not sure 🙁 I really hope things turn out ok where you are.

        Reply
  • amileinmyshoes November 11, 2016 at 5:11 am

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    I like this blog. The way people can get through this for the common good is through dialogue and understanding. I know in my last post I said I didn’t like Trump (I don’t) but I’m sure the majority of people didn’t vote for bigotry or sexism. They voted for change and they think he’ll bring them that. Dialogue and debate in order to find common ground and understanding. I think this is what the world needs right now.

    Reply
    • justmakingcentscom November 11, 2016 at 10:57 pm

      Thanks so much for reblogging, Beth!

      Re: Brexit — seems like a lot of parallels between Brexit and the American election. Multiple new, awful hate crimes are being reported here everday. I really hope things normalize. I really hope Trump chooses to defend those being targeted and, now that he’s won, focuses his message away from fear and toward love and unity.

      Reply
      • amileinmyshoes November 12, 2016 at 6:18 am

        I think it was a good message to reblog. Not watched the news today but ~I’m hoping there’s a unity and love speech coming from Trump.

        Reply
  • Lauren Fortenberry November 11, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    “I worry that this is the new playbook.” Indeed, and it threatens to rewrite marketing on more than just politics.

    I always appreciate your rich insights. Oh, marketing – the things I have learned in the promotion of my blog! Your commentary rings true in the WordPress sphere as well.

    But, back in the real world, I believe that tomorrow will be bright. And the day after that, too. It’s easy to fall into the fear trap, but I like to think the American spirit has the strength and creativity to find a way out 🙂 Thank you for sharing your heart here. It gives me hope for the rest of us.

    Reply
    • justmakingcentscom November 11, 2016 at 11:10 pm

      Thanks Lauren — It feels unsafe right now. I’m upset that a small few now feel license to be racist and hateful.

      But through the hate (and hate crimes) of this loud few, the larger, more rational and hopeful of us will band together and prevail.

      Reply

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