By Alejandro Clemente

The movie theater was dark, and the smell of cheap, buttery popcorn filled the air. All that could be heard was the occasional squeaking of a plastic straw rubbing against a lid. As the title “Blackkklansman” showed up on the screen I got ready to go, assuming the movie was finished. Then I heard his voice. President Donald Trump appeared on the screen, mid-campaign speech. Realizing the movie wasn’t over, I sat back down. I felt the impact of each word he said like a bullet to my heart. Everything and everyone disappeared, leaving only the screen. Then I saw it. A bright blue sky, with barely any clouds. A group of people were gathered outside a building, their murmurs indistinct. The car came out of nowhere, and I never saw it coming. Bodies flew in the air, and there were screams. I was speechless. Alone with the carnage, I sat in silence, the clip came to a close and the darkness subsided. There was no crunch of popcorn, or squeak of straws. The silence was deafening. The credits rolled and the lights came up. While people got up to leave, I sat in my chair and tasted the salt on my lips. I had been crying and I hadn’t even noticed. Alone in the theater I sat, trying to figure out where we went wrong.

Heather Danielle Heyer was killed on August 12th 2017 at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. A white nationalist plowed into her with his car. Heyer was part of a counter protest at the march. Her last Facebook post said eight simple, but powerful words, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

Harvest Collegiate High School is a school that is open to all students and encourages the diversity of all views and ideologies. The school’s core mission states that it wants to “aspire to being, and contributing creatively to, a ‘sane society,’ one of peace, growth, and joy.” Yet there is still a divide, making Harvest in some ways as toxic as the outside world. Our “sane society” is increasingly one-sided.

If a Harvest student were to walk around wearing a MAGA hat they would be shunned. I have seen and heard verbal assaults on a former student who supported Trump, all because he had a different opinion than the majority of this school.

Our students and staff fight for equality at any chance they get. Students often wear “Black Lives Matter” shirts and hats. These students are not met with the same hostility that a Trump supporter would receive.

I am not disagreeing with the Black Lives Matter movement, but I am attempting to reveal the polarization that not only affects the world, but even infiltrates our schools and private life. All ideas of respectful discourse have been discarded, and it is almost impossible to have a discussion with someone with opposing views.

My white grandparents, like a large majority of people in the country, voted for Trump. Many Americans felt ignored by past presidents and feared the rising elitism of the West and East coasts. All around me I have had different political influences, that have each affected the way I see the world. My mother is a white Republican from Pennsylvania, while my dad is a dark skinned Independent from Puerto Rico. My grandparents did not cast their vote for Trump because they were racist. In fact, they encouraged my mom to marry my dad, a very dark, Puerto Rican, man. There is a way to have a conversation with someone with an opposing opinion without hurting them. All you have to do is understand that there are people who don’t agree with you.

I have witnessed the incapability of people to engage with those who disagree with them, especially when it comes to our president. I was at the Broadway show “Once on this Island,” which features a cast of all Latino and African American actors. While my theatre friends and I stood outside, a group of white kids sporting MAGA hats walked out of the auditorium doors. They were on a field trip. My friends were outraged. The kids noticed my friends staring, and whispered among themselves. My friend Daniel and I heard what they said, “Fucking Liberal Femi-nazis.”

Daniel lost it. He walked up to their group and cursed them out. If the kids’ teacher and I hadn’t stepped in, there would’ve been a fight.

While there are sexist, racist, misogynistic, and horrible people, not everyone who has a different opinion than you is one of those terms. At Harvest, we value the Habit of Perspective, meaning everyone is entitled to different perspectives on life and the way things should work. If we cannot create a humane community within Harvest, how are we supposed to change the world?

And the world needs changing. Pain, tragedy, despair, rage: we all feel them on a daily basis. We live through them. It’s so easy to want to hurt someone. It’s so easy to hate people. It’s so damn easy. But that doesn’t mean we have to hate people based on their views. Instead we need to ignore the easy path, and walk the hard one. Walk the path of respect. We need to respect other people and their views.

If we want a civil America, it’s time we started acting civil ourselves, so we can see that bright blue sky once more.

Alejandro Clemente is the Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Harvest Tribune. He has a unique perspective on socioeconomic issues within Harvest Collegiate High School and challenges what most would call normal.

Photo Credit: This work, “Inverted Flag”, is a derivative of “Painted Flag Art” by Stuart Seeger used under CC BY. “Inverted Flag” is licensed under CC BY by Alanna DeGaetano.

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