08 November 2016

Happy Election Day!

I'm not here to tell you who to vote for, but I have some thoughts on the election and beyond if you're interested/bored. This election...has been terrible. But I don't think the country itself is not in is as bad condition as some media outlets and candidates would have you believe. Yes, we are in a time of social, economic and demographic change and such times of change breed uncertainty and fear. This is especially true when that change involves the real or perceived threat of a historic majority losing its protected status in society. But we are not falling apart as a nation, we are entering a new period in our history. 

What concerns me is that in this time of great change, the impulse of millions has not been to communicate and open dialogue with one another but to retreat into corners of ideological isolation. I'm sure this approach is comforting at first, but ultimately it only serves to divide people and stall progress. This instinct does not represent the better angels of our nature, it represents a mindless defense mechanism in response to unwanted change. But change is good, and even if it's not, change is inevitable. I'd like to live in a country where people collectively rise above this instinct and reject anyone who tries to prey upon it, regardless of our differences. Clearly we have some work to do. 

Divisions are distracting and America loves distractions, but they become dangerous when they interfere with the business of governing. There is too much at stake to allow political divisions to become personal and prevent us from working together to better ourselves and our country. Through all the distractions, we forget how much power we have and as a result put way too much faith in individuals to solve our problems. Neither of these candidates will be your savior. True progress boils up from the ground, it doesn't trickle down from above. Working together, thinking critically, considering new ideas, taking risks, failing, learning from our mistakes- these tried and tested approaches are not valued in a highly divided and unequal society. So society must change. 

Final thought- we are nothing without empathy. It has become cliché to point out the shocking negativity of this campaign and our society in general, but I think it bears repeating. Empathy is another natural human emotion but, unfortunately, it doesn't come as naturally as fear. It's not reflexive, you have to work at it. But you don't need money or privilege or status. You just need to be willing to hear another human being out and accept that you might not understand what they're going through, it might not be what you went through, but that's ok. All you need to do is listen to and acknowledge their words and give them the opportunity to change your mind. This kind of communication is validating, constructive, priceless and sorely missing from our national discourse. We will always have problems, but if we can't even discuss them, how will we ever begin to solve them? 

That's all. Have a good election everybody, and relax. You'll be fine.

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