An intense wave of compassion has been swelling in my heart since I started watching election results come in on November 4th. With Michigan certifying their votes to confirm that Biden is our official president-elect, the wave just broke in a brilliant splash of democracy, washing me over with gratitude for EVERYONE who participated in this American experiment of a “government of the people, by the people and for the people.”
In our fast-paced, media-driven day-to-day connections, it is easy to get swept up in partisan politics, to succumb to clickbait, to express ourselves with quick quips and harsh statements based on exaggerated stereotypes of “radial liberals” or “radical conservatives.” I have listened as those who voted like me, for Biden, lament how close the election results are, feeling disheartened by the symbolism of what it means to live in a country with so many “Trump Supporters.” I have heard both “Trump Supporter” and “Biden Supporter” used as derogatory terms.
But what I see is angry, hurt, and scared people on both sides of the aisle. People are afraid they can’t pay their bills for education, healthcare, or retirement. People are trying to earn a living wage while watching the CEO’s of companies earn 90X what they earn. People are concerned about corruption and suspicious of authority enforcing laws for some races and not implementing them for other races. People are afraid for their lives. I feel compassion, compassion for people who are standing up to scream at the top of their lungs that this system is failing them and that there are critical things NOT working in our country. And even though this tension is painful and challenging to face, I am grateful for it because one of the things that IS working is our right to fair and safe elections – a cornerstone of our representative democracy.
I am truly grateful for the over 161 million voters who turned out to vote in this last election and the over 2 million poll workers, election officials, poll watchers, and other volunteers that worked to ensure a fair election.
I am incredibly grateful to those who voted differently than me because they challenge me to move out of my complacency.
I am grateful for the transparency in which anger, blame, and judgment are being used as a tactic to bring people together in support of policies that may or may not address the issues about which people are upset. For me, the fear that our country is “more divided than ever” or “on the brink of civil war” forced me to stop and research. Is that true? I don’t think so. Our most radical and revolutionary political document, the Constitution, was first introduced in 1787 – 233 years ago. Looking at that document, it is clear that division and being actively engaged in a debate about liberty, freedom, and responsibility has been a crucial part of our history throughout time. Conflicts about race, immigration, and government role have been fought in the streets, in media, and in elections in the most vitriolic vernacular of the day for each era of our evolution.
So the only thing that is different about now is that you and I are here. We are the ones engaging in the debate. So who do we want to be, and what do we want to stand for?
I refuse to judge someone solely based on how they voted. I will choose to judge my fellow citizens based on their behavior, words, and actions. And the only way I can experience their behavior, their words, and their actions is to be in a relationship with them. Not to have knee jerk reactions to slogans or one-liners or name-calling, but to engage with compassion to understand what lies beneath the hurt and anger and courage to confront beliefs of supremacy that don’t serve anyone in our country. It helps me to remember that these people with different opinions are my neighbors, friends, and family.
I hope we all continue to stay engaged and help shape our local political landscapes, and may we all shape the Biden presidency into something we feel represents a compromise between all of us.
As I sit down at my Thanksgiving dinner this Thursday with my “Trump supporter” family, I will celebrate that we all voted and compassionately request that we all continue to stay engaged.
Written by Jennifer Regan, SVP of Sustainability & Business Development at Effect