An unpleasant era of taking swipes at large sections of nations

A new unpleasant era has arrived. The USA 2016 election and the British EU referendum have unveiled that we are in an unpleasant era of taking swipes at large sections of nations. We have been witnesses to some very horrible and nasty comments about people and the opinions of those who have an opposing view and it does not do anyone any credit.

USA Presidential Elections 2016
USA Presidential Elections 2016

Trump v Clinton

Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton was a nasty presidential election campaign, the likes of which we have not seen as unpleasant as that before. The high-profile contest featured some very nasty blows between the two participants and their followers. It bred bitterness and unpleasantness that was hardly suiting for the top office in the United States of America. Flinging insults and sound bytes at the opposing candidate went beyond discussion of issues and policies. It was more like the trash talk that boxers have with one another at a weigh in rather than a sensible, grown up, political debate about which way to take a large, mature country forwards over the next four years.

There is no disguising that the USA has a lot of issues and a lot of problems that there are needing of a good solution, and are affordable by one of the richest countries in the world. They were all put to one side as the popularity debate, or unpopularity debate took centre stage and their supporters joined in too. Supporters of the Republican Party and the Democrat Party were in on it too. There were a lot of angry people hating the opposing side and the leader of the other party. This was on both sides, and it was really horrible to watch.

When the result was announced that Donald Trump had won the presidential election, the comments and posts on social media about the winner and about their supporters was unbelievable in the level of horrific comments and angry commentary. What was surprising to me was not that people opposed the winner, as in a roughly 50/50 vote you are going to get a lot of people who backed the wrong horse, but the comments as to how stupid Trump’s supporters and voters were. The abuse that some supporters received was shocking and so unpleasant that it made me think that no matter how much you think negative of someone, there appears to be an increased ‘need’ to say something about it.

Gone are the days of ‘if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all’. We are in an era where people don’t just have opinions, but they have the need and want to have to publish it too. As a blogger, I also accept that I have a responsibility in what I write too. This should be the case on social media and message boards and forums too. Unfortunately, many people don’t have the level of restraint required to comment on such controversial or contentious issues and still retain a level of dignity and decency. It is a sad reflection on today’s society when this is the case.

EU Referendum 2016

The 2016 European Union referendum in Great Britain was, if anything, more shocking in the tremors and aftershocks of the result. I saw so much anger and unpleasant behaviour online during the aftermath of the result being announced. The Great British public had voted in the majority to Leave the European Union. You may have heard about it! I saw so many insults and derogatory comments being exchanged both ways and it really was enough for us to lose the ‘Great’ from our country’s name. It really was atrocious. After the result had been announced, there was an increase in racist behaviour, there was an increase in anger, there was an increase in bitterness and whilst there was a massive lack of understanding as to what had been voted for, there was a significant increase in unpleasant behaviour from both sides of the argument.

EU Referendum 2016
EU Referendum 2016

From talking to people since then, I have heard many different arguments and viewpoints as to why they voted the way they did, and tried to ascertain what they thought would happen next. ascertain what they thought would happen next.

From those who wanted to remain in the EU, I heard that people wanted to stick to a level of certainty, to stay with ‘the devil you know’, to not rock the boat in difficult financial times, and to have faith that the relationship with Europe could improve its current position. On the subject of immigration, people mostly said that where they lived it wasn’t really that much of a problem. I am not sure on whether that was part of their reason for voting that way, but there may be a suspicion maybe. Or could it be that they don’t see change as a concept that should be taken so drastically, and that wholesale change and massive overhaul is a big, big gamble that a country with its economic difficulties shouldn’t be taking?

Of those who wanted to leave the EU, I heard that people wanted things to change and that they weren’t happy with how things were, they wanted drastic changes, they wanted a change of direction and some even said that they didn’t mind which way the change took them, they didn’t like how Britain was at the moment, so they wanted something different. On the subject of immigration, people mostly said that it was getting too bad where they lived and that it didn’t feel like their own country anymore due to the many different languages they heard when they were out and about. I took this as a lack of trust and a lack of confidence in the government that cohesion could be found between those new to the country and those already here, rather than a problem with more people coming to live in their area from ‘somewhere else’, even from other British people relocating there.

I saw that many people were unhappy and that many people wanted change, there was a degree (some would argue quite a large degree) of a protest vote against politics in general and a voting against the establishment. This voting against the establishment may bring about changes that may not affect them too much, or it may affect them greatly. What change brings often is uncertainty, and people are generally comfortable with what they know rather than looking into the opportunities that prevail from change.

People chose which way they wanted to vote, they placed their vote and the nation had a majority decision to leave the EU. The kind of comments that flooded social media afterwards was nearly enough for it to be renamed anti-social media. Tides of long commentary pieces and rant statuses about how the ‘other lot’ are stupid, short sighted, idiotic, etc.. and how the country is going to be destroyed and it is all their fault. There was again a lot of unpleasant published statuses about how the other half of the nation had voted, and also many from those who had voted for change about how the remain side were unpleasant too and were insulting to those with an opposing viewpoint. It really was a horrible time to be reading status posts at the time.

What this says about both countries

What is missing from both scenarios, the EU referendum and the USA presidential elections, is the grace and dignity to accept that one side was going to win and that one side was going to lose. Democracy is about voting the way you want to vote, and then accepting that others may vote a different way, and to accept the will of the nation regardless of whether it is your shared viewpoint. I have voted in general elections in the past where the party I wanted to win had lost, I have voted in general elections in the past where the party I wanted to win had won too. At neither occasion did I feel the need to gloat or to lambast the other candidates or other voters dependent on their views. That was expected to be the norm, you vote, you accept the overall result, and if you don’t like it you get on with it. Now there seems to be a new norm of having to moan about anything that doesn’t go your own way. Not just having a moan about it, but taking swipes at large sections of nations in the process. If you don’t like something, you don’t always have to express it, and how you do express it says a lot about you as a person and the kind of society that you are happy to be living in. Dignity and grace are much better traits for people to get along with one another.

I really do not like this era that has unpleasantness and intolerance  on the rise, we have an opportunity to fight back against that approach. This method does not including fighting, it includes leading by example and by trying to be the better person and rising above the hype and hysteria that others subscribe to. It is better for all of us to retain the levels of decency that indignation and anger are the polar oppositions of acceptance and compassionate, thoughtful reflection.

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