We, as Americans, are one hell of a screwed-up family but, even so, we’re still a family.
Never has our dysfunction been on display more than in 2016. As a post-WWII baby who witnessed the aftermath of what we can do when we all come together, and as a coed whose university closed because of national unrest during the Vietnam war—just a couple of events during my lifetime that prove we have issues—I’ve always taken pride in my country because the individuals who make up our citizenry are, overall, a good and generous people.
We don’t always agree but, hey, we can disagree aloud and not be fearful of retribution—except somehow that changed during this election year. And, of course, we each fault the other side for it.
Our family must return to a place of talking about our issues, not making personal attacks, and denigrating one another. We are so incredibly fortunate to live in a country where we can openly speak our minds. Seriously, do we get how amazing that is? Most of the world is not so lucky, so let’s talk to each other in a constructive way!
I arrogantly thought I was immune to all the madness that went on during this year’s election cycle. I did my best to stay above the fray, as did some of my friends. I quietly dodged and weaved my way through any opposing political conversations even though I stood strong in my own convictions.
For me there was no judgment if we differed; that’s just the way it is and always has been. This time, however, there was extreme self-righteousness. It went way beyond the norm. Consequently, I held my feelings much closer than I had in the past because, if I didn’t believe the way other side did, in their minds there was obviously something wrong with me. This is a political twist that I’ve never experienced. Say what you will about the candidate, but don’t personally disparage me because of my own beliefs. For the first time in my life, I was lumped into an inflammatory category that said nothing about the real me. It was very discouraging and, inside, I railed against it.
I love my friends and didn’t want to step into the ugliness with them. Elections will, thankfully, come and go, you’ll vote for the lesser of two evils (your crass uncle, or your less-than-honest aunt), you’ll win some and lose some, but friends, they are forever. I wouldn’t allow myself to suffer the loss of a friendship over an election. That’s just not possible.
Yet it was excruciatingly challenging to resist pounding my thumbs on my iPhone keyboard every time one of my Facebook friends posted some ill-informed and hateful, personal attack on my candidate, or worse yet, on me and my so-called ilk! I used to love Facebook. And it was hard not to lose respect for a friend when their relentless venting clouded my thoughts of them, but I didn’t.
Then, a month after the election, having escaped unscathed, one of my dearest friends of over forty years, a person with whom I went to college, traveled the world, partied, and helped through divorces and deaths—a person who I love and has long known my political beliefs, called me from across the country. She left a message that sounded like something terrible was going on in her life. I returned her call and asked what was wrong. Was she ill? Did she split from her husband? No, it was neither. It was the election.
I encouraged her to move on, telling her that’s why our country is so great: we can change our leaders every four years. Sometimes you get who you want, sometimes you don’t, but it all balances out. Then she asked me who I voted for. After I told her, her tone changed. “I have to go. I can’t talk anymore.” I asked her to keep talking, but she simply hung up, and I haven’t heard from her since. The election cost me exactly what I was hoping to avoid.
People, please, let’s come together as individuals and be respectful of our differences. There will never be a perfect scenario for any of us but if we accept that we can disagree, engage in fruitful discourse, and fight our fights with dignity and empathy, we can make our country, and ultimately our lives, better. Is it possible that good things might happen during the next administration? Only time will tell. But what is possible is that we can, at least, give it a chance.