What makes us different is what makes us great

Published 11:55 am Saturday, November 12, 2016

On Tuesday morning at about 7:30, I took one last look at all of the names on my ballot.

And then I cast my vote for Donald Trump.

By definition, according to the mainstream media and the thousands of protesters who are vandalizing public property, torching cars and destroying businesses, my vote indicates I don’t like Latinos, African-Americans, women, Muslims, members of the LGBT community, children, old people, dogs or cats.

Almost none of that is true, with the possible exception of cats.

I will not attempt to apologize for or attempt to justify Donald Trump’s behavior over the course of this election cycle. Much of it is indefensible. Nor will I attempt to downplay the significance of some of the recordings and other historical evidence that has been unearthed that show he can be a crass and vulgar human being.

I have a wife and a daughter, and I certainly don’t want anyone speaking to them that way. I have a son, and I don’t want him to think that speaking to or about women in that fashion is OK. But I also don’t subscribe to the theory that everyone who has made a crass or vulgar comment in his or her lifetime is as evil as Trump has been made out to be. Were that true, I know few souls with the moral purity to survive the public vetting that the politicians of today must endure.

Donald Trump may not be the right answer for our country. He comes to the presidency with some ugly baggage and a reputation that will be difficult to repair. But the exact same can be said for the candidate he defeated.

Hillary Clinton has a track record of bullying those she disagrees with, making questionable ethical decisions with regard to using her public position for personal gain, and using vulgar and inappropriate language when speaking to those around her that is every bit as long and clearly established as that of Donald Trump. And just as my vote for Trump doesn’t make me a racist or a misogynist or a homophobe, it doesn’t mean that someone who voted for Clinton would lie, cheat or steal.

When Barack Obama was elected president eight years ago, I was gravely disappointed. I was aware of some of the things he said he would attempt to do, and it caused me concern for the future of our country. Some of those concerns proved valid, some of them not. But eight years later America is still standing strong. Not because of the people we have elected to conduct the people’s business, but because we the people are the ones who make this country go. The people of this country are what make America great, not the politicians who claim they can or want to.

In my lifetime, the country has never been as divided as it is today. But it is not Donald Trump’s fault any more than it is Hillary Clinton’s. The blame lies with us. We are to blame because it is more important to many of us that our party win than to see our country win. In a country that was established in part to allow for differences of opinion, we are no longer able to tolerate anyone whose position on issues differs from our own.

We are hell-bent on defeating each other’s candidates instead of identifying candidates whose work and ideas will benefit us all. We need to stop complaining that the two political parties can’t work together and realize that it is a reflection of the fact that we the people no longer choose to work together. What we see in Washington is a reflection of what we see in our own homes, neighborhoods and communities, not the other way around.

In the end, when I walked out of my polling place on Tuesday morning I literally thanked God that I had the opportunity to choose, even if I felt like none of what I had to choose from was all that great. And that is our common ground. What binds us together is the shared opportunity to participate in a process that shapes the future of the communities that we love and a country that we love. We are not bound by common beliefs and shared philosophies, but by the right to have different beliefs and different philosophies. That should be a source of unity, not a cause for division.

Tony Clark is publisher of The Tidewater News. He can be reached at tony.clark@tidewaternews.com.