In the spirit of forgiveness I write this. I’ve been angry at some of you and maybe you’ve been angry at me. I’m exhausted by it all. How did it come to this? Can we agree that things have gotten a little out of hand? I think about an anecdote I heard once: if you were to drop a frog into a pot of boiling water, they would immediately jump out. If you put a frog in a pot of lukewarm water, and start to slowly heat it up, they’re more likely to gradually get used to the heat of the water and the extreme situation they’re in, less likely to get themselves out. I hope that we haven’t gotten used to this extreme state of tension, fear, and hatred, and will get ourselves the hell out.
As people of the United States of America we seem to have an identity crisis to address. Who are we now? What is important to us? What does it mean to be a U.S. American? How has your race, gender, location, and socio-economic condition shaped your identity? What is our history that has gotten us here and what can we learn from it? Who will we be going forward?
I know I’m not the only one angered, saddened, and disheartened by this election. Hopefully the pains we feel are growing pains – a sign that we are shedding skin, transforming. It hasn’t been the most graceful process, but addressing the serious issues of wealth inequality, climate change, racism, sexual violence, student loan debt, healthcare, and widespread corruption is necessary for us to move forward. No one said it would be pretty, but I really didn’t expect things to get this nasty. Then again, if you really look at the realities of people’s lives these days it’s understandable that things have gotten emotional. We need to take a good look at these wounds, air them out so they can heal.
I think it’s helpful to view this election as a mirror—it’s about more than the two people in the spotlight. It’s about all of us, and it is revealing, sometimes brutally — the fears and struggles of our nation today. Our pain, the things we would rather ignore, are now too difficult to avoid. We are being faced with our differences, but also our similarities. At the heart of it all don’t we all want what’s best for our families, our communities? How can we as a country coexist together, and more importantly see and hear each other?
I think we can accomplish a lot if we take the time to listen — listen — listen to each other. Listen to someone else and maybe they will listen to you. Listen to not just our own tribe, but those experiencing a whole different world than our own. Maybe we would think and see and feel differently than we did before.
I’m not claiming to be a role model in this department. I’ve developed my own prejudices and stubbornness and anger over time. Made judgments before knowing someone. Reacted instead of really listening. I want to do better.
Regardless of who we may be voting for this election, or who we may not be voting for at all, and all the reasons why, I hope that going forward we can allow some space for compassion and understanding towards each other. Some of your voting choices are painful to me, and perhaps mine are to you. But we all have a right to our choice. I hope that decency and dignity can be maintained, and that our hearts don’t completely shut each other out. That we can try to open up even if it’s just bit by bit. I hope that we can actively try to understand each other.
There are voices dying to be heard. People dying to be seen. Or at least have a basic standard of living. It’s understandable that there is this atmosphere of tension, confusion, pain, and shocking behavior. It’s understandable that people are upset about their situations. It’s understandable that people are upset about how they have been treated by the actions or inactions of government leaders, big business, and even each other. There has been, at least in my experience, a lot of emotional investment in this election and what the results could mean for our culture, environment, personal freedoms, etc. and the fate of our country and global society going forward. There is a lot at stake and a lot of issues to confront. We are being challenged to evaluate and understand the values that our lives are built upon, as individuals, specific groups, and as a country.
At the end of the day everyone will make their own decision about this election, for their own reasons. But for what it’s worth, I hope that you exercise your right to vote. If you are totally exasperated and need a reason, I hope you vote for future generations, for those who don’t have a choice but will likely have to carry the weight of our decisions. I hope you vote for those who fought for their voices to be recognized, fought to be seen. I hope you vote for the health of the land that hosts us here, that gives us life.
I hope that the result of this election doesn’t divide us further, and that we don’t let a single human being define the very diverse population that we are. I hope and believe that we can change this country based on our interpersonal interactions, immediate communities, and not just rely on the “lesser of evils” alone.
As your fellow U.S. American, I sincerely hope that we remember to practice compassion, and constantly be reminded that everyone has their own experiences and circumstances that have shaped them. I believe that we can work together and do better: for the people, by the people. We can evolve. We can choose community over money. Democracy over oligarchy. Health and respect over exploitation and hatred. For us to continue we need to look at ourselves and decide to what is really important for a meaningful life. And act accordingly. Treat each other and ourselves and our environment accordingly.
We are at a threshold of uncharted territory. There is an opportunity to regroup and move forward with a new vision. What does “America the Beautiful” look like in that vision? Function like? What does it provide for its people? How does it interact with the rest of the world? What is our common ground? Let us all pause and consider: what is the United States of America that we believe in?