Tomorrow we elect a new president. Never in my memory has this country been so painfully divided. Never has an election season been so filled with unfiltered vitriol. It is sobering to contemplate: What will happen to all that emotion when all the votes have been counted?
I believe we have a choice. We can move forward in discord, or we can move forward in harmony. We are unlikely to have a meeting of minds, so if this grand American adventure is to continue successfully, we must have a meeting of hearts.
There has been a lot of stress during this campaign, and there have undoubtedly been broken relationships. It is hard for those of us on the left to imagine how supporters of Mr. Trump can overlook his shortcomings, and those of us on the right cannot imagine how anyone could happily vote for Secretary Clinton.
That’s always the case, of course. But this election the gloves have been off; personal insults have intensified with each passing month. Moreover, in past years, before the ascendancy of social media, we were much more reluctant to talk about politics. It was too uncomfortable, and too potentially risky to relationships.
Most of my own family of origin are voting differently than I am, I expect, but we avoid the topic as much as possible. We want to continue to love and respect each other, and right now, it’s safer not to dig too deeply into ideology.
Online, it’s a bit more difficult. I haven’t “unfriended” anyone (I’m not sure whether anyone has unfriended me), but I have temporarily “unfollowed” a few people. The discourse among Facebook friends has reflected the campaign’s lack of civility.
The most uncomfortable thing for me has been the manner in which political discussions have revealed not political positions, but character. In a way, that is a gift, a shortcut to understanding that someone may not be a person I choose to include in my close circle of friends and acquaintances.
Beyond the one-on-one interactions and attempts to discuss issues, however, is the avalanche of political material. I have thousands of Facebook friends, and most of us – including me – are posting our opinions. It’s an overload of stimuli, and even those of us who imagine we are simply engaged in an exchange of ideas are emotionally involved. It’s exhausting.
If individual opinions are a lot to process, we must also deal with the constant onslaught of sponsored posts from personality-driven pseudo-news sites and all the “fake news” sites. These post untruthful articles, slanted both right and left, and stir up agitation among the people who read and believe them.
Some of my spiritually-oriented friends have chosen to withdraw, for their own peace of mind, and out of a desire to abstain from contributing their energy to the negative environment. Others have chosen to take a principled stand and express their beliefs.
Tomorrow the election reaches its climax. On Wednesday morning, we will all wake up to a new challenge: How will we rebuild relationships that have been fractured by this terrible campaign? How will we move forward as citizens?
Whoever is president-elect that day, close to half the country will be disappointed, and in many cases, angry. If we choose to hold on to that anger, it does not bode well for the democratic process, and for our country. Already our Congress is barely functioning, because of a power struggle that was never envisioned by our Founders. If that situation persists and worsens, our federal institutions are at risk.
We can make another choice. We can choose to move forward in love. We can let go of the judgments we have made about the people with whom we disagree, and forgive each other for perceived slights.
Of course, we will still disagree on some fundamental issues. We must still find a way to explore those issues. Ultimately, many will have to be resolved through the political process. But with love, we can preserve the republic, and open a path to a positive future.