As we all know, Americans made some significant choices yesterday. For better, worse, or otherwise, elections are over and winners have been chosen. Whatever my own leanings might be, I believe we need to respect the process we chose and the people we elected. For many of us, however, we have some discomfort about what has happened, and I think this is reasonable.
Many people struggle with a sense that they, and their votes, are insignificant. How much does it matter what I vote if I am a democrat voting in a traditionally republican state? How much does what I believe change anything? How did we end up with these two people on the ballot when people keep saying they don't trust either one?
On a more personal level, we ask the same questions. If I matter so much, how come my own parents didn't see me? Why can't I find a job/friend/date/spouse that shares my values? Nobody will listen if I say no, so why should I bother?
Many of these questions are hard to answer. I'm not sure why the system works as it does, except to say that systems exist to keep systems existing and not to make the parts happy. There's a lot of doing the same things we have always done and hoping for different results this time.
I think as a nation and as people, we have to be more responsible for ourselves. Perhaps we depend too much on the response of others or on our leaders to define us and to determine what is acceptable. When I say responsibility, I refer less to blame and more to empowerment. I believe that individual choice can be powerful.
For me, I choose to look at differences as uniqueness rather than threat. I like to learn about people and what makes them who they are. We need variety and change in the world to keep us healthy and growing. Somebody has to think about things differently, or we become stagnant. What do I do, then, if the leadership in the country seems to list to the side of intolerance or fear?
My job, then, is to live in tolerance and curiosity. In my own life, I have conquered fear much more by getting to know people I didn't understand than by avoiding them. During the debates, when they were discussing what to do about racial issues, the focus seemed to be on increasing power in those whose job it is to protect and defend. My wish would be that the police and the families hurt in those devastated areas could work together to rebuild both the neighborhoods and the trust that was lost. I think communication is a powerful tool and our best ally.
At a recent training I attended, the facilitator was talking about how the military used to have problems getting soldiers to fight because they would look across the line and see just another teenager/young man, and this made the opponents too similar to themselves to attack. As people, we are not designed to attack and harm each other. For this to happen, propaganda became necessary. For us to attack each other, we have to be taught to believe that the other is a threat or is less than. It would seem, then, that the best way to counter this teaching is to connect and to get to know others.
I love my job because I do get to connect to others. I am no MLK or Ghandi or Mother Teresa. I doubt I will be nominated for sainthood or start a movement that will change the world. What I can do is make changes in the world around me. I can provide encouragement and empowerment. I can choose to be thoughtful about the words I use and the jokes I make. I can focus on changing fear and anger to curiosity.
I love my country, and I am privileged to live here with the rights and freedoms that were afforded me simply because I was born here. I didn't have to fight/bleed/die for these freedoms, and I did not have to go through the pain and fear of leaving another country in hopes of finding solace, safety, or a better life. I live with much fortune that I have not earned. Still, I have responsibility.
I choose to learn about others and try to understand their perspectives. I choose to support others in doing what they believe is right, provided they do not harm themselves or others. I choose to spend my time empowering and uplifting others rather than attempting to judge or manipulate them. I believe people are designed to connect and to want what is best for those with whom they are connected. The more we can connect, the less we will harm others, intentionally or otherwise.
Similarly, the more we connect with ourselves, the less we will harm ourselves, intentionally or otherwise. When we can approach ourselves with curiosity rather than fear or hatred, we can learn valuable information and make better decisions. When we truly see and value ourselves, it is easier to stand up for what we believe is good and right.
I hope, when you look at yourself, you are able to explore your strengths as well as your weaknesses. I hope you can see your value and your uniqueness. I hope you can choose to advocate for yourself and act on what you believe is right without harming yourself or others in the process. I hope you will choose to connect rather than isolating or attacking. If you have trouble connecting with yourself or finding connection with others, I hope you will find me. I am not the right connection for everyone, but I would like to help if I could.
I hope future generations and other countries will not judge us by the choices our government makes but by the positive choices that individuals make, whether or not they align with the current government vision. I believe that I can facilitate change in my little corner of the world by acting on my beliefs and convictions and by supporting others in theirs. I wish for you that same sense of empowerment. I believe you can do it.