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#WhatNow? Millennial Voters Want To Bring Empathy Back

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#WhatNow? Millennial Voters Want To Bring Empathy Back

Millennial voters

They know what is said about them.

Crybabies. Snowflakes. The post-election protesters were cast as millennial whiners, yearning for a safe space to nurture their wounds after Hillary Clinton’s defeat by President-elect Donald Trump.

But that’s not the focus of five college students, all 20-somethings from around the Kansas City area. They’re aiming for something completely different. And they are willing to work for it.

They attended the protests in Kansas City, along with hundreds of others. But they were the ones manning the card table, handing out water bottles and collecting more than 200 signatures of people interested in being involved.

And yes, they voted. In fact, they’ve very engaged politically; several are political science majors. They’ve been meeting almost daily, forming a group they are calling WhatNow.

“It’s not about those that voted for the president-elect and those who didn’t,” said My Hoang Nguyen of Kansas City. “It’s about policy and humanitarian efforts.”

A forum Tuesday will be their first effort, 5:30 p.m. at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, 4501 Walnut in Kansas City. Networking will start, followed by a 6 p.m. panel.

“You may scream in the street, you may make a sign and march, but nothing will change if you allow your emotion to guide…” began a Facebook post by Nguyen, who initiated the work.

For the forum, they want an event where those who see themselves as liberal and those who say they are conservative can sit down. And talk. And more importantly, listen. A place where people could express views — in civil tones — and be assured that they wouldn’t be verbally attacked.

Finding a venue, that proved difficult. There were issues of insurance and security and trying to spark interest from local politicians. They contacted Mayor Sly James’ office, city council members and also reached out to national figures like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

To find conservative voices they’re tapping Republican student organizations of area colleges. They are hopeful that professors who are sponsors for such clubs can help leverage student involvement.

“I think both sides can lack empathy,” said Michele Lazarowicz. “I hope empathy comes back in style.”

Using the hashtag #WhatNow, and Twitter handle @WhatNowKC, they’ve decided on this mission statement: Connecting communities through empathy, education and advocacy.

They bought three website domains and will launch on WhatNowkc.org Tuesday morning. Work around gaining nonprofit status has begun.

The initial group also includes Sandy Altamirano of Overland Park and Jennifer Feeney and Sarah Turello of Kansas City.

They know single-issue voters, say about guns or abortion, can only explain so much of how people voted. They’re not interested in making a bogeyman out of special interest groups. The pitfalls of Machiavellian forces, too often at odds in the two-party system, are also apparent.

“It’s not about whether your person won or lost, but why can’t we all win?” said Turello.

All of this, and much more, is what they are eager to discuss with others.

Like many, they’ve struggled with political divides in their own families. One has a Trump-voting father and a Clinton-voting mother. That raised the concern that one parent might have voted in a way that will eliminate the health care of their college-aged child, if Obamacare is repealed.

They’ve had older adults talk down to them, as if they don’t understand the Electoral College. Actually, they can explain its origin and nuances better than most. The young women worry what Clinton’s loss implies for their future careers, asking how much of the vote was anti-female?

Mostly, they realize there is much to learn about voter motivation. Not only to understand it, but get to know people well enough to grasp how they dismissed or rationalized what felt so personal and offensive to the diverse friendship networks they value. Namely, the sexist and bigoted comments that peppered the Trump campaign.

As Nguyen sees it, Kansas City saw two different types of protesters after the election. There were those who sought solace, unity with like-minded voices drawn together primarily out of concern for remarks that targeted Muslims, immigrants and others. And, there were those who were in a more anarchist frame of mind, a far smaller collective.

Much of the initial response felt like grieving to Nguyen.

It’s not that people didn’t accept the results of the election. They did. And it worried them. Others reacted to the discontent; the crybaby comments.

WhatNow views all the feedback as energy to be captured.

“If we let this passion die down, this power die down, it will be the same thing,” Nguyen said. “And then, eventually, the community will get angry all over again.”

Mary Sanchez: 816-234-4752, msanchez@kcstar.com, @msanchezcolumn

IMAGE: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton poses with supporters after a campaign event at Rutgers University’s Newark campus in Newark, New Jersey, U.S., June 1, 2016. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Mary Sanchez

Mary Sanchez has spent years covering immigration, schools, and other volatile beats for The Kansas City Star. She is now an editorial columnist for the Star, where she continues to offer insightful commentary on immigration, culture, and politics.

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  1. RED December 2, 2016

    Hey great that these millennials want to be active and make efforts to change, we need massive amounts of that. But what we don’t need is more “middle of the road,” both sides do it, you don’t understand my racism bs. Nope, you don’t compromise with racists & ignorant pukes. First racists, there is no middle ground or meet me halfway here, there is only right and wrong and compromise is surrender to evil. Second, the ignorant. So we wanna find the middle with one group being absolutely ignorant and having no understanding of the reasons or forces that have put them where they are? I mean the morons believe that it’s the poorest people on food stamps that cause their low wages. So how can compromising with this be in any way helpful? Maybe we can compromise people who believe its alien alligators keeping wages low? Or maybe we should compromise with people who believe it’s the End Times and god is going to destroy the Earth no matter what? Yeah let’s compromise with these idiots, people who are completely out of touch with reality!! NO, NO & NO!!! Christ! Stop with this idea that compromise is the goal itself, it’s not. The goal is providing a better life and future for ourselves, our children, and our planet. And if people have ideas on how to do that and wanna to work together and bring different perspectives on how reasonably, rationally, & realistically address them, well great!! But compromising with morons is not an option!

    1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth December 2, 2016

      Right! Compromising with those who steadfastly insist on an immoral position is not a way forward. Those who persist in being belligerent can’t be reasoned with. Only when they feel an urge to seek change and are willing to dispassionately discuss the immorality of racism can a meaningful dialog occur, nor can those on the other side badger those who sincerely feel that racism is condoned in the Bible. By calmly pointing out the relevant verses in the Old Testament that have led to racialism and explaining alternative interpretations—based on Someone(s) who express the meanings in a clear and logical manner—can they be awakened to the reality of said verses.

  2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth December 2, 2016

    This is the best way to comprehensively make sense of what has been overtaking America over the past centuries. The moral collapse in the West began with the coinciding of The Age off Discovery with the beginning of the end of the collapse of the Judaeo-Christian/Islamic sacerdotal order which in turn weakened the spiritual foundation of these 3 major and important Religious Institutions so important to lending impetus to the advancement of Western Civilization, extending the influence of 2 of these Religions into the rest of the world.
    The weakening has allowed for materialist concerns like partisan affiliation, avarice, and economy to take precedence over more crucial concerns like empathy, courtesy, and a sense of the unity of humankind. Along with materialism has arisen religious fanaticism, particularly dramatized in the Middle East by a segment within Islam called Jihadists; Christianity has its share of fanatics in the form of racialists and racists, operating under the guise of being Christian but acting in a clearly anti-Christian manner.
    We here in our community are working to establish a similar gathering of “conservatives”, “liberals”, and others in between with a strict proviso to refrain from introducing partisan rhetoric into the conversation, and not just attend to gripe, mope, and whine. We’re targeting a date in December to start.

  3. Vocalic Scissors December 2, 2016

    Really! They want empathy now? Why didn’t they vote for Hillary? Some of them voted for Trump. Others stayed home because they prefer Bernie who was offering free burgers for life. Pathetic spoiled brats!

  4. dpaano December 2, 2016

    If only our government; i.e., Congress, would learn to sit down together and talk like grown-ups, so much more could have been accomplished during President Obama’s tenure in the White House. And, even now, if Trump would only learn to stop and listen to EVERYONE and not just the few angry people who voted for him, more could get done for the good of this country. If he wants to make this country great again….it will take the ENTIRE country to get it done…..not just a few billionaire cronies who only care about how much more money they can make for themselves by doing away with the many rules and regulations that have been put in place to help this country!

  5. Box December 3, 2016

    I cant think of a time americans were not empathic but in recent years the leftists have redefined the basic term into something insane and extreme. Example, many people believe a criminal should be let go because of the empathy needed to be shown towards his unhappiness or anger at the time of the crime. This is **BS**. But if you believe in this, lets set up a test because I wish to observe this firsthand. Lets get a guy to rape, torture, and then kill your daughter, and you and your spouse come to court and lobby for his release on the basis that his general dissatisfaction with life at the time of the rape should supercede the law. I’ll eat my hat in front of this group.


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