There is good in everyone. In each and every human being there is good, even if it lies buried deep, even if one must dig through a lot of dirt to get to it. In every single human being on this Earth there is good.
In times like these, it’s hard to remember that, but more important than ever. This election has been the most vitriolic and poisonous in our modern era. It has strained relationships, turned friends into enemies. It has stretched families, inflamed racial tensions, and thrown gender and sexual equality into stark relief, showing us just how much further we have to go. Now, less than a month until that fateful day, we’re all angry and bitter to the point of speechlessness. We stand separate, aloof and glaring at one another from across the room. Polite discourse is lost; we’re all just too convinced that the other side is the side of Evil, as though true evil actually exists within any of us.
We’ve missed something. In all of this anger and vitriol and self-righteous proclamation, we have taken two candidates for our highest office and reduced them not to a platform, not to a list of policies, not even to bulleted talking points. We’ve reduced them to cruel effigies: the very embodiment of all that we despise. We’ve transformed them into vicious, partisan boogeymen, and in doing so we’ve forgotten that these aren’t symbols, or demons, or boogeymen. These are people.
Hard as it may be to believe after all of this nonsense, Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are, when all is equal and the ugly words are stripped away, just people. They are two human beings, each with their own hopes and fears, their own priorities, their own beliefs and faiths. They are mortal, well-meaning, worn, and deeply flawed, as are we all. And here, we have vilified, demonized, scorned and ranted at these two people. In the glaring lights of our modern public world, these two fellow Americans have been stripped naked, mocked, jeered, dragged through the streets and torn to shreds. Despite it all, both of them have stood firm, both of them have held fast, because for whatever reason, they truly believe in what they are doing. Good or bad, right or wrong, they are doing this for us. You don’t have to approve of their message to appreciate their dedication and effort.
We, as Americans, have lost our way. We’ve forgotten what it means to be us. It’s time to change that. It’s time for all of us to be the bigger person; to be mature and kind, to listen and try to understand, and to realize that most, if not all, of those on the other side are only saying what they’re saying because they’re trying to help.
I have a challenge for you…for everyone who is reading this. It’s simple: I want you to look at the candidate you don’t like, and find something good about them. There’s plenty to choose from, on both sides. Be kind. Be sincere. Imagine that they are standing right in front of you, and with just a few kind words you could change their mind. Go online, to social media, and in front of all the world say something sincerely good about a person you’ve spent months learning to despise.
Here: I’ll go first, and I’ll cover both sides.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Hillary Rodham was born on October 26, 1947 in Chicago, Illinois. The oldest of three children, she excelled in school, swam, and played basketball. In high school she became more interested in politics and law. Her father, though generally traditionalist, encouraged her, feeling that his daughter’s gender shouldn’t serve as a barrier to success. After graduating from Wellesley, she went on to study law at Yale, and it was there that she made protecting children the focus of her career.
Law degree in hand, Hillary went to Arkansas: a deeply-conservative state. There, in an era in which women in law were rare, and faced a constant uphill battle, she struggled for respect. She founded crisis rape centers, advocated for special agencies to combat child abandonment and neglect, and through it all she shunned marriage to her boyfriend, Bill, as she feared his career would take precedence over her own. Ultimately it did, yet she stood by him, serving as his closest advisor, his most ardent defender, his friend. He wasn’t perfect. He stumbled, he strayed. She forgave him, she stayed. Despite his failings, she refused to see a bad person in the man she’d married, and she struggled to hold her family together, even as the rest of the nation fought to tear them apart.
She wasn’t done. With Bill’s second term over, it was her turn. She ran for the US Senate. She won. She kept winning. She worked hard, in the Senate and in the state department under the man who’d beaten her to the White House. She made mistakes. She regretted them. She learned from them and moved forward.
Hillary Clinton is a woman who succeeded in an era when women, as a rule, were set up to fail. She is a professional woman who’s been forced by an unready nation to hide herself, to put on a mask so as not to appear “emotional”. Instead, she’s been called “cold”. This is a person who cares, who wants to help the most helpless among us. She may be imperfect, she made mistakes, but good or bad, right or wrong, she’s trying to help.
Donald John Trump
Donald Trump was born on June 14, 1946 in New York City, the only home he has ever known. He is a second-generation American; like so many New Yorkers, he is descended from European immigrants who came to our nation shoehorned into boats like sardines, with only the clothes on their backs. His father worked in a lumber yard at age 13.
By the time Donald was born, his father had brushed off the sawdust and built a real estate business, one that did well. Donald was born into a life of comfort and hard work. He struggled with discipline early on. His father sent him to military school. There, he turned things around, and at 18 he enrolled at Fordham. Two years later he transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, studying Ivy League business while working for his father’s company. It wasn’t easy, but Donald learned early on that success was everything, and success required hard work.
Through hard work, shrewd study, and a little luck, Donald slowly made his way in the world. In 1968, fresh out of college, he took on a revitalization project, working on a dilapidated apartment complex in Cincinnati. His father had purchased the building for $5.7 million in 1962. Four years after Donald got to work on the project, the building sold for over $1 million more. In 1971, feeling the company was in good hands, Donald’s father stepped aside, and gave him the family business. He didn’t waste any time stepping out from his father’s shadow. After moving to Manhattan, million followed million, then millions turned to billions, and from his father’s kingdom Donald built an empire. Even amidst all of this, he found time to marry and have children, as he’d been raised to know that family was important. But Donald wasn’t perfect. He stumbled, he strayed, but he loved his children, all of them, and they loved him. He taught them all he knew, and above all he taught them that success was everything, and success required hard work. They learned well…followed in his footsteps, and they became his true legacy, one that could never be torn down.
He wasn’t done. Once he’d succeeded, Donald sold his success. He made further millions by selling hope: the idea that anyone could do what he did, millions and successful father or not. He portrayed himself as a self-made man so that others would believe that, hey, anyone can do it. He invested, he encouraged, and he worked hard to give back to New York: the city that had given him everything he had. It made him a king. He made it his Camelot.
Donald Trump is a man who has spent his life fighting to create his own identity, one independent from his father. Beneath his father’s long shadow, he worked furiously to succeed and surpass, and amidst all of that success he lost himself in a business culture that equated chauvinism with success. But it is his success that he wants to share, a success he genuinely believes anyone can attain. He’s a deeply flawed person. He’s insecure, he’s unfaithful, he has his ugly prejudices, but he takes his family and his business seriously. And good or bad, right or wrong, he’s trying to make things better, the only way he knows how.
These are the candidates we have to choose from. A tenacious politician: determined, compassionate, resilient. A shrewd businessman: clever, diligent, complex. They’re not gods or demons. Just flawed, well-meaning people like the rest of us.
Now, it’s your turn. Say something nice today. Look at the candidates, and find things you admire. Talk to your friends and family who disagree with you and compliment them. Shake a hand today. Smile at someone.
This election has hurt us all. It has cut us down. It has left its scars. But we can heal, because however deep it’s buried, there is good in all of us. And we all need to remember that, now more than ever.