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Part of growing up is realizing that the influences and role models, those ones who helped to shape your personality and interests as an artist, don’t have to like or appreciate your voice in any way even though you have delighted in what they have offered the world for so many years, and that seems to be the biggest lesson I am learning this year as a human. This is by far one of the most interesting things I have had the pleasure of learning about how we interact with each other.

There is a musician I grew up listening to that keeps posting things across social media, in light of the turmoil we have seen this year. So many horrible things have happened, but the good has been there as well. I love music, and maybe she isn’t a “hero” per se, but she’d be like what a sports player or speaker is to you. Someone you look up to.

In 2016, I have been called both an “asshole” and “narcissist” in social media posts detailing one of my favorite musicians political opinions. The posts are aimed to call me names based on my actions and opinions, and because I don’t identify with everything this musician has to say. The posts have to do with reforming laws, and you guessed it, the 2016 presidential election for America.

I have no idea why I’m open-minded or want to help people, but I do know that I want to be a humanitarian upon retirement. I also know that I need a plan and can’t expect resources to appear overnight, so I like to reflect.

When I was in middle school I learned about how George Washington warned about starting political parties, and it made sense to me.

“There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.”- Washington’s Farewell Address 1796

Read Washington’s full address here

Over the years of voting in elections, that warning only got more relevant. Even though I didn’t vote for the candidate who won this year, people are mad at me because I’m not affiliated with one of the two main parties, and therefore by not picking the “lesser of two evils” this time, I should be ashamed of my vote, and am at fault for all of the things that didn’t happen yet. I could have voted for the most selfless, kindhearted, and morally sound person in the world, but to some it doesn’t matter if I’m not subscribed to the dual party system. Voters wonder why we are stuck with “bad” choices when they keep feeding the dual party system, and the dual party system has trapped people so that they keep doing the same thing over and over again.

To my surprise, this musician was calling anyone who voted independent in this election a narcissist. The key feature here is that if you didn’t vote for her candidate and her candidate only, that you were wrong. She did not acknowledge any other possibilities. It doesn’t matter to her what you stand for, it only matters to her what you stand against. This really shows how quick we are to condemn our differences as humans. It shows our need to play offense and single people out instead of coming together.

So what is going on then when people in the public eye lash out and let you know that any opinion that is not the same as theirs is utterly wrong?

I think we’re afraid. The world is a crazy place. We see things happen now, and we’ve seen things happen in history, and it’s hard to shake those images. We call people names in order to try and protect ourselves. We feel like we need to do something, and at the time it feels right to say mean things anyone who feels differently than us, despite their intentions. We want to align ourselves with people who have our ideas because that is where we feel safe.

Aligning ourselves with certain groups might help us feel safe and make voting “easier”, but it also makes us quick to separate ourselves from people who have different or even slightly different viewpoints. Everyone I know who has ever practiced organized religion has told me that they don’t agree with some things, so I’ve come to learn that we can’t put definitive labels on people and pretend that we know all of their thoughts.

I don’t get to decide if you are “a bad person”, and you don’t get to decide that I “don’t care”. Plain and simple, it’s not fair if we do either.

So when I see people who have inspired me through art and music (the things that make us human) being afraid, I will not abandon them. Their experiences mean something to me and so do their opinions. They are afraid for their families and friends, and while it is scary, I don’t want to be scared any more.

Please look to your supportive friends and peers if you are having a tough time and are frightened. Look to people who support you, and know that people who look different than you can support you too. Some people don’t have supportive friends and families, and a lot of them have found their way despite horrible odds. I think that you can overcome this. Treat people like humans. Not party labels. Not based on how they look. Not based on who they love.

Remember: The more messages you spread concerning  hate, even if they are not your own, let the people who want to scare you win. You could be spreading their message easier for them when your original purpose is to try and help. Think about who you are helping get ahead when you share things across social media.

I know I want to be a humanitarian because I couldn’t possibly be a politician and navigate our system. Thank you to the people who strive to do so with integrity, and I am always hopeful that we can learn to treat each other with kindness.