Hardly has been there a time in recent years when the political tensions in Austria and America have been so similar, when both countries have been so vulnerable

Amidst anger and fear that are nearly unbearable, half the population is terrified by the other half’s choice of a president, convinced that the country is doomed for the years to come.

But in this emotional state, we may be overlooking one crucial argument: It is not the president – or at least not he alone – who makes a country, it is its people – so, it is not the prospect of the dreaded victor-as-leader that is most perturbing: It is what his election says about the society. It is what it reveals about a democratic society that stops exchanging views for fear of aggression and uncertainty.

By becoming selective listeners, we are wandering down a most dangerous road, shutting off discussion before it even begins. We are destabilizing both nations by an aggressive unwillingness to engage.

Democracies pay a toll for stifling voices and silencing opinions – a toll that neither the United States nor Austria can afford. It is a toll that Austria, of all nations, should have fiercely and forever cemented in the nation’s collective memory. Silencing dissenters should have been unthinkable then; it is intolerable now.