The mom in me wants to lie to you.
I want to tell you everything’s okay, regardless of the outcome of this election, but that would be my personal privilege speaking. The fact of the matter is that regardless of outcome, everything isn’t okay when we’re so deeply split between hope and fear. There isn’t room for both if we want to survive, let alone thrive together.
I write this the day after the U.S. presidential election in 2020, and the results are still up in the air. We already know what we need to know, though—that it’s an incredibly close race. Incredibly close, driving home the point of how incredibly far apart we are as a nation. It doesn’t matter so much who wins at this point, because the message that’s being delivered in the process is crystal clear.
I know what you’re probably thinking. This is not news. This divide has been cutting deeper and deeper through us with every uptick in virus cases, every business gone bankrupt, every blue uniform slandered, every black person murdered. And you’re right. There’s a hot resentment bubbling inside most of us. No matter which side of the fence we’re using as a barricade, it’s what’s inside us that eventually will ignite us into flames, if we let it.
We singe the healthy parts of ourselves every time we look at that coworker, neighbor, family member, or friend—not to see them, but to inspect their politics and vet them for connection safety first. We allow the hot liquid of resentment to flow over and around the compassionate parts of us when we lead with a knife at every turn and work to uncover which color a person really bleeds: blue or red? Democrat or Republican?
At what point do we become nothing but hollow shells filled with ash?
I stayed with a friend recently who has differing political views from my own. We generally keep political talk to a minimum for that reason, but with the election so close, it was at the front of everyone’s minds. This friend is also a die hard (read that: practically a roadie) for a really popular alternative rock band. As we sat in her kitchen with other friends chatting, I noticed that she kept looking at her Apple Watch. Then it was her phone. It was obvious she was getting increasingly bothered by whatever was going on, and eventually, she brought it up.
Her favorite band had tweeted something about a concert in support of the Presidential candidate she didn’t support. She tweeted back to them, respectfully, that she wished they would stick to music and let politics be. And then it happened. She was pummeled immediately with hateful comments that bred even more hateful comments. The whole thing turned into this toxic cesspool of hate, just like that. While I don’t agree with her politics, I felt for her. It was disturbing that people were so quick to judge and throw stones her way, even when she hadn’t said anything inflammatory.
No. Everything isn’t okay, even if your choice for President wins this race, and that’s what’s troubling me the most right now. A lot of things might feel okay for you or for me. For some. In that case, it’s our privilege that makes us blind or ignorant to the reality of what’s happening. The truth is that neither option for President will make it okay for us. The only way things get better for us is if we quit minding the gap that exists and start mending it instead.
I’m not saying that our political leaders don’t matter or that our government doesn’t need improvements. I’m saying that political leaders don’t matter and our government can’t improve if we keep choosing to burn alone instead of heal together. How do we do that? By moving fear aside and tapping into empathy. It’s only in our ability to see from another’s perspective that we understand and accept that the world is bigger than our individual experience. Yet that’s the universal connection between all of us: We’re all small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. How freeing that concept is if we allow it be.
It’s pretty simple. We can choose humanity over politics. We can remember that government was created by people, and that people are inherently fallible. We can put our faith instead in ourselves to make the changes that count, regardless of who’s sitting in office at the time.
If we do that long enough, maybe our kids will be able to tell their own kids one day that everything is okay. And they won’t be lying.