By all accounts, this political season has been brutal. As I prepare to cast my ballot this morning, I am less concerned with tonight’s results than I am with tomorrow’s response. My Facebook feed is filled with harsh images, doomsday language, and vitriol from both sides. It seems we’ve stopped supporting our individual candidates (maybe because they are both so flawed) and instead taken to villanize the other.
I wonder where this particular path leads. We the people seem to be fractured and at odds with each other. There are different visions of how we move forward as a country, and instead of leaning in to the conversation we seem to be throwing stones. But the thing is, we are the people. The ones we like, the ones who agree with us, and the ones we believe to be fundamentally wrong. We will inherit the future together, like it or not.
On my best days as a mom, we practiced listening to understand, as we dealt with the thousands and thousands of battles that erupted every day. I would pull them aside and help them talk about how the action/word/breathing of the sibling hurt/annoyed/devastated the offended. We leaned into the conflict to try and find some common ground. It takes hard work, it takes commitment, and it takes time to lean in to listen and understand. It does’t promise a life with no conflict, but it did help us find our way through some hard days.
When the kids were really young we used a “friendship rug” where offending parties had to share space until they could be friends again. I have such good memories of the giggles that would enevitably erupt from time spent in proximity.
It seems to me that we need to create some spaces where proximity allows us to see each other again. To recognize that though we might disagree, we are still better together. Places where we turn down the us and them rhetoric and lean into our shared humanity. I long for places we might encounter a stranger and find a friend.
There is so much to be grateful for in our nation. So. Much. Good. We are strong and free, we have such liberty and power. I am a proud American. I will still be after the election. That doesn’t mean there isn’t still work to do, things to address, issues that need attention. It doesn’t mean that we never make mistakes, that we don’t have room to grow. It means, that some of the beauty of this nation is its mess, and our continual growth toward a better world for our children and grandchildren.
It all feels so big and overwhelming. I can’t really pull Hillary and Donald to my “friendship rug” to work things out. Instead, I have to find some ways to build bridges and unity in my little corner of the world. So, I’ve been thinking about how we might come together and what I can do about that at the end of my long driveway.
- I can ask questions, to try to understand my friends and family’s viewpoint. Not to convince them or overwhelm them with my perspective but to simply to try and see the world from another vantage point. I want to understand the fears, concerns, hopes, and dreams of my people, maybe then I’ll understand the strong reactions to this political moment.
- I can be respectful, to those with whom I disagree and I can require respectful discourse in my spaces. We don’t have to give way to fear and anger, we can choose to see each other as people rather than political positions. Sometimes, we just need to be reminded of that.
- I can lean into the conflict, rather than step away. It is my nature to avoid confrontation and try to keep the peace. Maybe this is a moment where we need some peace makers, who are willing to risk something to create spaces for real communication and shared humanity to be seen.
- I can pray, not for a candidate or for an outcome but for our sense of shared destiny as a country. We are not our political leanings or our candidates, we are moms and dads, sisters and brothers, neighbors and friends and our lives are linked in a miriad of ways.
Whatever happens over the course of this election day, we will have to find our way forward together. We the people will make our choices, and we the people will walk out the consequences of those choices together.
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. Mark 3:24-25