After months of waiting, I, along with millions of other Americans, sat nervously perched in front of the TV screen watching the results of what was to be a “historic” election night for our country. Between channel surfing network election coverage and trying to figure out why CNN, ABC, NBC and FOX were toying with us in calling the states at different times, I sat anxiously biting off what was left of my once freshly manicured fingernails. Most importantly I was hoping that my home state of Florida wasn’t going to end up being in the national spotlight once again and causing havoc with the election. The suspense was almost too much to bear.
This year’s election, with its polarizing political and social media views fueling its intensity, indeed turned out to be one of the most gut wrenching historic nights in election history. It became a night that Americans from both sides of the political spectrum sat stunned in disbelief with the outcome and became a night that will have the “experts” analyzing the results for years to come.
Casting my vote earlier that day, I left proudly wearing my “I Voted” sticker hopeful that my candidate would win, but also prepared to accept possible defeat and deal with whatever would happen. Only one candidate would be chosen to lead our great country – win or lose, life would go on and the sun would still rise in the east and set in the west.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the shocking aftermath of vicious posts and comments pouring onto the pages of our social media world, the violent protests and the burning of our flag. I understood that half of our country would be sad and disappointed, but the level of anger continuing to boil over and the intolerance and disrespect directed towards my fellow Americans in the days following the election caused my heart to grieve. I suppose I naively expected more from our citizens. After all, we are all Americans and throughout our country’s history we have faced much worse; always uniting together and coming out stronger.
As I continued to read post after post, comment after comment, friends attacking friends, accusations of one side being racists or bigots and the other side of being intolerant or radical, I sat quietly stunned by how few people wanted to work together and show respect. “What do we tell our children?”, “He’s not my President”, “I’m terrified” or even “Get out of my country” were the themes of many who did not want to accept that Clinton would not be the President, but Trump would be.
Some of the comments began to sink in and I had to agree with the statements of “I don’t recognize America any more”. One thing was for sure, this was not the America I know. My America would not sink to this level of hatred, my America would not pit itself against family members, friends, neighbors or co-workers. My America would remember that our country is for all, regardless of a different view. My America is not who is President. My America is the people, our collective ideas and our ability to positively work together for the greater good of all the citizens.
In the sea of despair and negativity, a small glimmer of sunshine and hope was trying hard to break through the discord. Encouragement from leaders of both political parties and positive posts and comments started to scatter through social media. Maybe there is hope after all. Maybe there is something to learn from all of this chaos.
How do we heal, move forward and become a stronger America despite who won the election? What do we tell our children and our loved ones? We start by being honest and facing the fact that the results are the results even if it wasn’t the outcome one had hoped for. We start to heal by putting our differences aside and learning to show kindness (even if it is hard to and even if it is not returned), we show respect and we model the characteristics we want our children to have. Above all, we work together to find compromise and to find solutions that will work for the greater good of our citizens. We listen to each other and not the media.
As for me, I will tell my children whether they may be happy or unhappy with the outcome of the election that they are entitled to their own feelings, but they are not entitled to be disrespectful and hurl vicious insults at someone who voted differently. If my children expect people to be tolerant of their choices, then they must be equally tolerant of another person’s view even if differs from their own.
My children will be taught that people who voted for either candidate are good people and as human beings do not deserve to be shamed or ridiculed because of their personal political choice for our President. People of all races, economic status, sexual orientation, education level and gender voted for both candidates. I will teach my children that voting for one candidate over the other does not necessarily mean the vote cast indicated support for that candidate, but may have actually been a vote against the other candidate. I will try to help them understand that some people who voted for Trump may not have totally supported him, but more likely disagreed with Clinton.
I will choose to set an example for my children and be a role model for grace, humility, faith and understanding. Allowing them to slide into a negative mindset and despair, or to act in a disgraceful display of gloating celebration will never help to mend fences and heal wounds. Kindness, compassion and love will always be the methods for positive change.
I want my children to think of solutions to their problems and not sit around and complain about other’s political points of view. I want to teach my children that what they see on TV is not always accurate and true. I want my children to know that the news thrives on creating drama and negativity and they should not make assumptions about a person until they get to know that person. I don’t want them to ever believe in stereo types and for them not to judge an entire group of people based on a few radical fringed individuals. I want them to know the majority of people they meet are good, moral and just, regardless of the labels society places on them. My hope is that my children will learn to find the common ground, see people as equal, learn compromise and work towards creating a better America for all.
Maybe I am naïve in my hopefulness, but if a step in a positive direction is not taken, things cannot change. Maybe I am naïve in my faith in America, but without faith we all lose. But just maybe, if we all show a bit more kindness to each other and stop labeling people, we will see humanity in a more positive light. In the words of the late Rodney King, “Can we all just get along” and can we start building each other up instead of tearing each other apart. Let it not just be an American dream, but instead become an obtainable reality for all.
When love shines through, all things are possible. We are possible. America is possible. Hope is possible.