By Maddie Keith
I’m a political science major. I half-believe that when I tell people that, it conjures images of me huddled around a TV watching C-SPAN for hours at a time, writing lengthy political rants on Facebook, and standing on the steps of the plinth to make swelling speeches about democracy. This is untrue.
I watch CNN, do most of my political ranting over texts, and I only ever make speeches about democracy in my head. But the flame I’ve always held for American politics has diminished recently.
In all honesty, the latest election cycle has given me a strong desire to hide in my room and not come out. Not because of the presidential candidates or even the outcome of the election, but because of the unprecedented anger, discord and divisiveness that has spread across our nation with alarming speed.
For months now, I have seen friends and family, both liberal and conservative, inundate their social media with political commentary so filled with moral absolutism and intolerance that there is no room left for debate, only arguments. Opinions have not been voiced to educate, only to inflame. Indignation has only been met with rage and exasperation with resentment. Any attempts of reconciliation were almost unilaterally futile.
Needless to say, when I attended the election-night watch party last November, I was feeling disenchanted. All I wanted to do was drink my coke, eat my apple-pie and go home to watch another episode of The West Wing.
That all changed however, when I sat down next to a group of total strangers who, I would soon learn, were all three recent immigrants to the country. Polite and exceedingly kind, they asked me question after question about American politics and the election system. None of them could vote but each expressed curiosity about the candidates, what they each stood for and who I ultimately supported.
As we stood in line to take pictures with the cardboard cutouts of Clinton and Trump, I pointed to the posters of past presidents hanging on the walls and recited every interesting anecdote I could remember. I was, quite simply, uplifted.
For a few hours I was privileged enough to sit, laugh and swap questions and ideas with a group of people who had come to this country to better themselves, to get an education, and explore the world of opportunities that this nation had to offer.
On a night so filled with opposition and strife, I was reminded what America was all about: That people who don’t look alike or believe the same things or speak the same language or have the same taste in music can come together and have their voices heard. That despite our differences we are all created equal and that this nation is and hopefully will remain one nation, indivisible with liberty, and justice for all.
Okay…so maybe I do make speeches about democracy.