My vote in this election will mark the tenth time that I have voted in a presidential election. Ronald Reagan was the first candidate I ever voted for, and I still remember the feeling of power that I felt when I punched a hole next to his name. I didn’t know much about politics at the time, but I knew that Reagan gave me a good feeling. He made me feel optimistic about America and positive about my future. It felt good to vote for him. Throughout the years, I have voted for both Republicans and Democrats. I recently did the math, and figured that I vote for Democrats about 70% of the time and Republicans 30% of the time. Believe it or not, I came close to voting for Independent, Ross Perot, in 1992, but at the last minute decided to stick with George H. W. Bush. Voting for Barack Obama in 2008 was exhilarating. I hadn’t felt that good about my vote since Reagan. I liked John McCain, but voting for Obama felt like a vote for history.
However, I have never felt more convinced of my vote than I do this year. Never has the choice been clearer, and never has my passion been more intense. I am so convinced about who the right candidate is, that I am truly astonished that every smart and decent person that I know doesn’t feel exactly the way I do. Throughout this seemingly endless election cycle, I have tried to maintain the mindset that it is OK to loathe the candidate, but it is wrong to dislike his or her supporters. This has been easier said than done, but it is the right way to think. The fact is, I have a lot of friends and even some family who disagree with me. I’m pretty sure that we all do. The question many of us are now asking is: What happens after the election is over? Will this extremely polarized political environment continue? Have our friendships and family relationships been so deeply damaged that they are beyond reconciliation? I think those are choices we will all have to make for ourselves.
The right thing for me to say here is that no matter what happens on Tuesday, we all need to get our emotions under control, reconcile with all of our family and friends, and sing Kumbaya together…but let’s face it, that would be disingenuous. This has not been a typical election and the fact is, friendships and family relationships will be permanently impacted by the sheer brutality of it. Politics are emotional because they say a lot about us. They can say a lot about our values and sometimes even more about our character; to me the problem has not necessarily been about what a person believes, it is how those beliefs are expressed. Let me clarify, if someone has racist beliefs, I’m not going to be friends with them no matter how nicely they express themselves. However, the lines are not always that clear. I have been blessed with amazing family and friends, and while the people closest to me do not always share my political beliefs, they are, with few exceptions, awesome people of high character. This election has been rough, and it has caused some of us to disagree more than usual. Because of that, we probably haven’t talked as much as we usually do, but our friendship has never been in question, and we will remain close when the election is over.
There are a handful of people who were close to me prior to this election cycle, who are not close anymore and probably will never be again. It’s not because they differ from me politically, it’s because of the way they expressed those beliefs. They let their emotions get the best of them and they acted like idiots. There has been a lot of talk lately about the lost art of civil discourse. Of course, the discourse has continued, it’s the civility that has vanished. For me, it was the name calling, the intentional spreading of lies, and the demonization of political adversaries that crossed the line. While most people expressed themselves with dignity, some people just lost their minds, and life is too short to have people who engage in that sort of behavior around me. Whatever happens on Tuesday, we will all have no choice but to live with the outcome. Perhaps it’s a good thing that we got to see inside the hearts of some people, and finally purged them from our lives… but notwithstanding a few fools, it is time for us to once again regain that common ground we had with friends, colleagues, teammates and family that may have drifted during the past year. Forgiveness is a liberating thing.
Nobody said this would be easy. The process of forming a more perfect union is both messy and painful, but the result is still worth it. God Bless America!