I am not a political person, though I have deeply held opinions. I have never felt the need to try to hoist my views on other people- we all come from different backgrounds that shape why we believe what we believe to be true, and I think that is a big part of what has always made America a beautiful place. I grew up in a family where the women were traditionally on one side of the political spectrum, the men on the other, and they would happily go ‘cancel’ each other’s vote out on Election Day. I enjoyed hearing those stories from my mother of people who loved and respected each other deeply, but just saw things differently when it came to politics.
Things have grown in a very different and polarized direction, and though I never write about politics, the stress and anxiety that this election cycle has invoked has compelled me to at least address this change. I noticed it a couple of years ago when one of my family members visited and said some very strong and extreme words. When I reminded them that we didn’t see eye to eye and that was okay, they looked horrified and said, “Oh, no! Don’t tell me you are one of them?!”, looking as if they had stepped on something unpleasant in their best Sunday shoes. It seemed that I had become no longer a loved family member, but instead, the other side. I checked my head for horns, but nothing was there, thankfully.
Most of my family and my best friend are of a different political persuasion than I am, and I live in a state that I have no doubt will vote differently than I will. I do not see them as evil people out to destroy our country and our way of life. They are good people that I love, who just happen to see things differently- very much our right in this country. If we all believed the same way, we would lose the rich diversity of thought and ideas that has been the foundation of our country from the beginning. I don’t need people to think the way I do- I only need them to respect and honor my right to do so.
Politics have inspired angry words from the time of our Forefathers- people have always voiced strong opinions that ignite the ire of others. The dialogue that ensued, the meeting in the middle, is what has kept our democracy healthy. What seems different this time around is that we’re not seeing fellow Americans with differing ideas- we’re seeing people who are evil, bent on destroying our country. The constant negative words and images bombarding us through the media and from the candidates have made sure that we perceive it that way. But you know what? We can choose to see through all of the sensationalism, seek the facts, the truth, be informed and educated on the issues. We can choose to respect each other and the process of democracy.
I’m not saying it is easy. Everyone seems to be on a hair trigger, afraid to say the wrong thing because they may be unknowingly talking to someone on the other side. I have to admit that even my Mary Poppins self has yelled at the television on a few occasions. No matter who wins or loses, on Wednesday we will wake up and life will go on. The balance of government will help to keep our politicians in line. It’s our people that I worry about. We’re going to have to learn to see each other as fellow Americans, fellow human beings– not one side or another, the right or the left. A group of people that can do pretty damn amazing things when we work together and find common ground. Let’s not forget that.
I will never tell anyone how to vote, nor will I let anyone tell me how to vote. I believe in the power of my voice and actions, my one quiet vote, and I believe in the will of the people. Of course I hope to wake up on Wednesday with a certain candidate in office, but if that does not happen, I will know that democracy still worked, and I’ll do my best to help us all move forward as one country, a beautiful patchwork of color, of ethnicities, of orientations, of ideas, of heart, and of hope.