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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Unity, facts, and other questions

<rning after the 2016 election, one of the most discordant elections in recent memory, both the Republican and the Democratic candidates were, funnily enough, saying pretty much the same thing: We’ve got to come together to create a better future.

In his first tweet as President-Elect, Donald Trump declared, “we will all come together as never before.” In her concession speech, Hillary Clinton told her audience of reporters and despondent supporters, “I still believe as deeply as I ever have that if we stand together and work together with respect for our differences, strength in our convictions and love for this nation, our best days are still ahead of us.” Unity was the watchword of the hour, and, if you had been following the election at all, it was impossible to not feel like you were going insane. Unity? Coming together? For a nation that had just spent a year-long political campaign debating the plausibility of facts, we were feeling pretty good about our future.

It is, of course, all well and good to declare an intention to build consensus, to reaffirm the need for inclusivity and tolerance, but what the hell do you actually do to make that imagined future descend from the dream world of the imagination and secure its place in reality? Well, that is, as we like to say in Minnesota, a darn good question, and it’s a question to which there is no clear answer. The founders of our country couldn’t answer that question. About 240 years of democracy has not found an answer to that question. I must plead my ignorance and honestly say that I doubt I will answer what very well might be the question of our democracy in this very brief little column. That said, I do have thoughts on possible ways we, as individuals privileged with a college education, might work towards an “America for all” and, in full acknowledgement of the limits of my thoughts, here they are:

Many Carleton students have the opportunity to live in a new place after they graduate, and one positive way to use that privilege is to move to a place that will force you to interact with people who are different than you. The physical segregation of different groups of people in the U.S. seems to have something to do with the lack of understanding that exists across group identity lines (who’d have thought?), and living next to someone makes it much easier to get to know them.

The next thing I might suggest is to practice imaginative thinking and to help others practice it as well. This election was marked by grand failures of the imagination, specifically, failures to employ the imaginative power of empathy, and to envision new futures that were not simply recreations of the past. An America for all has never existed before and we can’t rely on the past to build it. To find solutions to the immensely complicated problems we face requires flexible thought, and if we don’t start flexing those imaginative muscles, we’ll never be able to bend towards the justice we desire.

Things probably won’t change, or we likely won’t get to see them change in our lifetimes, so it’s probably best not to worry too much about results. Talking with people and engaging seems like a good thing to do. Why not do it? Everything is problematic. At a certain point, you just have to move.

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