The election here in the US is over, and Barack Obama will remain the President of the United States for four more years. However, we have only to look at the popular vote, which shows just a 2% margin between the “winner” and “loser”, to know that we are a nation divided. I suspect you have only to look at your Facebook wall to see that people in your own world are not only divided, but ready to claw at one another’s eye sockets. How are we supposed to get past all of this ugliness and get along with one another again?
Why should we even try getting along with those people?
Because those people are our neighbors.
In my case, many of those people are my friends and family. They are my people. They are smart, loving, generous, ethical, good-hearted people who have snuggled my children and fed me desserts.
They did not vote with me, but they have ate with me, loved with me, and raised children with me. They have cleared tables and streets with me.
So how do we get past all this nastiness? How do we move forward together?
It’s been only in the last few years that I’ve been able to have a respectful conversation with people who have different political ideologies than me. I found myself thinking yesterday how strange it was that I suddenly have so many friends of different political persuasion, but I suspect that’s always been the case – I just wasn’t the type of person to whom her friends would admit that.
I’ve learned a lot about myself and my friends in the process.
I know more not only about how my friends vote, but about why.
We look for the best parts of each other.
In trying to better understand, I’ve been asking my friends to tell me what they voted for.
We vote against something out of fear, but we vote for something because of hope.
None of us are beautiful in our fear. Fear distorts us, turns us into snarling, feral creatures that instinctively bite the hands we once held.
Sharing our fearful selves was something once reserved for our most trusted inner circle, people who could see beyond our growling and remember how we looked in the light. And then Facebook came along and we started letting our fear hang out all over the damn place.
I’ve read some of the words of my people during the last several months and have been shocked, stunned that I could love someone who could say and think such nastiness. Who the hell were these people? I wondered.
Then I remembered the thoughts I had when I was most afraid.
I have been ugly. I have been cruel. I have attacked and snarled and threatened and even given in to hyperbole when I was afraid.
It’s what humans do.
We can’t judge each other based only on what we are afraid of.
Ask someone what they voted for, what they believe in, and you will often see the light change on their face. You will see them talk about what they hope for, long for, wish for their children.
Not always, of course. Some people are eaten up by fear and have little hope left in them to share. You may be able to love them anyway, or you may need to let them snarl in their own corner, far away from you. But the majority of us, I believe, have a vision of the world that we’re dying to share, if only someone would ask.
We start with what we have in common.
I’m not naive enough to believe that we all have the same vision, the same hopes and dreams. But at our core, we are more alike than we are different. There is common ground to be found, and it is on that level ground that we can begin to build compromise.
Find one thing.
It may be a belief in equal rights for all Americans.
It may be a desire to improve our schools.
It may be the hope that women and children are safe.
It may be a passion for helping the poor.
It may be an interest in protecting our food source.
It may simply be a belief that the Green Bay Packers are the greatest football team in America.
But there is something. One thing.
And where there is one thing, there will be more.
There are always more similarities than differences, because we are at our core just human beings trying to do the best we can with what we’ve got.
Listen, look, find the common ground.
And you will be able to enjoy Facebook and family reunions again.
(Plus, you know, better world and all that.)