As I click-clack away on my keyboard, we are less than one week out from the most divisive, disruptive, discordant, conflict-ridden — and expensive — midterm election in our history.
In the supposed interest of improving the lives of millions of our fellow citizens (not to mention our own), certain candidates and their supporters have espoused hatred, name-calling, and “dog-whistles;” rationalizing such actions (I suppose) with the logic: “The ends justify the means.” Woefully, some campaigns, once platforms for intelligent, wise, uplifting deliberation of principles and goals, have been jam-packed with half-truths, falsehoods — lies — with no regard for the damage to remain in the wake of the vote.
If you have read this far, I know you share my sentiment that Election Day cannot come too soon; our sanity depends on an end to this madness.
Yet, the bleak reality is that — although, yes, elections do indeed have consequences and next week’s will bring with it its own — very little will change in our national sentiment come Wednesday. Do not misunderstand; I am in no way cynically advocating to stay home and skip your responsibility. Do not misconstrue my statement to be, “It won’t make a difference.” It will. Whether you agree or disagree with the direction of our country’s trajectory, you have power: the ballot. Be not dismissive of this awesome privilege. One vote – your vote – does make a difference. Additionally, this is not another in the on-going cavalcade of public service announcements and celebrity lectures preaching at the masses to “get out and vote.” You know that. Go do it. You owe it to this country you call home.
What I am attempting to point out is that the disarray that got us to this heartbreaking state of affairs will persist after the votes are counted. Those who fail to understand history are forever condemned to repeat it. Should we therefore not address the conditions which birthed this fetid swamp, we’ll be standing in it again in 2020, 2022, 2024… I don’t think I could take this another time; I wager you feel the same. We must then — together — strive to end this national psychosis which smothers our nation.
Hence it is crucial that we take a different road.
To that end, I offer some ideas, no matter on which side of the political spectrum you find yourself.
First, we must get it – viscerally – that NO ONE is going away. Whether red or blue or some arbitrary shade in between, the same individuals who produced this condition will still be present when the dust settles. We will continue to hold firmly our beliefs and values. There shall be no death knell sounding for liberalism nor conservatism; neither side is going anywhere. Get over it; we’re all here to stay. So, let’s put on our grown-up pants and get down to the heavy lifting of change.
Upon acceptance of the premise that we’ll all be here next week, and accepting that “consensus” among us all is out of the question, the intention of our communication must shift from “winning” to “compromise;” from “ridicule” to “acceptance.” Quarrels will endure, but we must move beyond the concept that everything is a zero-sum game; rather seeking commonality, especially with those with whom we vehemently disagree. To that end, we have to give up the attitude that “it’s my way or the highway.” Everyone gets a seat at the table, no exceptions. If there’s not enough room, we’ll build a larger table.
We must actively seek out — not ignore — those with whom we disagree, and engage respectfully in conversation.
This is not to deny that our beliefs run deep and will no doubt trigger strong sentiment. We can agree to disagree respectfully. We’ve done it before; consequently, we know we can do it again. Instead of looking at conflict as a win-lose situation, we must change our assessment to consider it the door to resolving established misunderstandings. Disputes must be about goals, not personalities.
We must recall at all times that there is no “other.” It is essential to shatter the concept of an “us” and a “them.” There is only “we.” Once I accept that each and every one of us seeks peace and security for their loved ones, we merely view the road differently, then, and only then, can I build upon that common humanity.
Said Mother Theresa,
“Spread love no matter where you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.”
It won’t be easy. It won’t happen quickly.