Clayton’s Civic Climate

Nicholas Lee

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On Nov 8, Donald Trump became our nation’s president elect. On Nov 9, I found myself in a school environment that was quite visibly upset. Students and teachers described the election as a tragedy and expressed the emotional toll the previous night had taken.


As I am politically liberal, I too was disappointed by the election results. However, I could not help but empathize with my peers who are Trump supporters, a demographic that is very much the minority in a community as progressive as Clayton.


In many of my classes, the election was not even mentioned directly but was offhandedly referenced or implied as a disaster and hardship we must overcome. In others, teachers tried to console the class, saying how even dark times will pass. Both students and teachers expressed disbelief and even anger that people actually voted for Donald Trump. It was enough to make any conservative student feel more than a little alienated.


While upset democrats should absolutely be able to express their disappointment and concern for the future, we as a school community should make a conscious effort not to alienate anyone based upon political ideology. In an increasingly hostile and polarized political climate, it is important to avoid widening the rifts that already exist. Instead, we need to strive for greater understanding of different views, most importantly those that contradict our own.


Greater understanding of different political ideologies can only come through open discussion. However, the environment of CHS following the election was far from open as teachers and students spoke in a manner that assumed their peers shared their sense of disappointment, and thus the same political beliefs. Such assumptions can be harmful in silencing minority voices and preventing any real discussion. In an educational institution such as CHS, it is especially important to welcome different beliefs, so that debate and productive discussion can ultimately lead to understanding.


Admittedly, it is difficult to foster balanced discussion and debate in a community as homogeneously liberal as Clayton. Whenever any conservative student speaks openly, they know that they will be questioned and challenged by the majority of their peers. However, those of us in the liberal majority should recognize the courage it takes to express an unpopular opinion and be willing learn about opposing viewpoints. Otherwise, we risk alienating individuals with minority opinions to the point where they do not feel comfortable expressing themselves, essentially cutting off any discussion or understanding.


It is also necessary to acknowledge that the popular political beliefs are not automatically just or morally right. Similarly, the unpopular opinions are not necessarily ignorant or racist. There were many legitimate reasons for supporting either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump this past election, just as there were also many ignorant rationales for supporting either candidate.


As social media encourages the proliferation of extremist views and news sources, it is increasingly important that we interact and engage with people who hold different beliefs than our own. Until we can have open and respectful discussion with all people, we will never have any greater understanding or unity in our society.