Thursday, November 10, 2016

10 Reasons I'm Grateful for this Election

I'm betting that some of you read that title and thought, "Great. Another post that tells me I'm supposed to hug the neighbor I'd like to punch and that we just need to sweep what's happened under the rug and get on with our lives."

Well, yes and no.

You don't have to hug your neighbor. We're getting into flu season and that may not be wise. And I'll tell you right now...I hate sweeping.

Like a lot of the country I've been trying to process this week. I've felt this wild mix of emotions and I've been getting my money's worth out of my anti-anxiety medication. I spent the day after the election feeling drained and looking at the world as if I'd never seen it before.

But there have been many bright spots to what's happened, too. And in an effort to try and save some money on therapy, I'm choosing to focus on those.

1. On the morning after the election, my 15-year-old daughter came downstairs for breakfast and learned the election results. For a moment she looked defeated. We talked for a moment about her three best friends - an African American girl, a Muslim, and an openly gay friend - and how they might be feeling that morning, how some extra sensitivity might be needed.

She then sat up straight and said, "I can't wait for the next election so I can fix this." Yes! She WILL be able to vote in the next election and the fact that she's so invested in what's happened isn't a bad thing. This new generation - which I believe in many ways is a more tolerant and open group - watched this election carefully. And many didn't like what they saw.

2. This has been a huge lesson in complacency. I've had others before, with my local school district which I watched deteriorate as I kept saying to myself, "This isn't really happening, is it?" But now I know these things can happen. And Hillary herself said at one point near the end of the election, "Don't get complacent" when the rest of the country thought the election was in the bag.

Don't just sit back and let things happen. Don't assume anything about any situation. Be vigilant. Be the change you want to see.

3. Okay, so this is a big one and if Blogger would let me I'd draw big arrows to this point.

Yes, I've seen all of the posts on social media about some awful things that are happening. It is true that some racists out there have taken this election as a sign that their behavior is okay so they've decided to ramp it up a little bit. I agree, that's scary.

All I can comment on is what I've experienced post-election and that is what I feel is a huge outpouring of kindness. When I go out, I feel like we're all being very careful with each other. I've actually experienced more smiles and conversations - not about the election, but people just making small talk with each other - than I have in a long time.

And here is a small example.

I've recently had a family move in next door who is originally from Iraq (they've been in the US for a while, though). Yes, the wife is completely covered and she hardly speaks English. But their kids are delightful and respectful (and, truth be told, I think they have a family dinner on Sunday nights that makes me want to knock on their door and invite myself in because it smells so good) and the husband always waves enthusiastically as he drives by. I don't know them well, but they've been great neighbors.

The day after the election the husband's car broke down just as he was backing out of his driveway. My parents and I were standing outside and my mom said, "I wonder if he needs help." I walked over to his open window and asked if we could help him push is car back into the driveway so it was out of the street.

He looked surprised for a moment and then his face broke into an enormous smile. "No, no! I have someone coming out to help me," he said.

"Are you sure? We're happy to help."

"That's okay." His smile broadened.

As I walked away I heard him call from the car, "God bless you."

I don't know how to explain it, but during such a tense day...that kind of made my afternoon.

4. As adults, we've just learned the lesson we're constantly trying to teach our kids which is that not everyone wins. We're disappointed, sad, fearful of the unknown. But we have to keep moving. We have to keep going.

5. I've learned about the people I thought I knew well. And I know I mentioned this in my previous post about Trump, but I need to expand on it.

First, I DO NOT believe that the people within my social circle are racists and all of the other words that have been thrown around. Yes, I do think those people are out there, but I think that many people who voted didn't vote for Trump - they voted for the bigger picture that they believed in. I think that a lot of those people probably feel just as unsure of the future as the people who voted against him.

But what's been disappointing is the response from some of the Hillary supporters I've seen. It's been offensive to me. Yes, I know we're all going through a huge range of emotions, but what I've seen isn't helping anyone. And at this point I'm just as likely to unfriend someone for their response to the election as I was to unfriend someone because of what they were posting during the election.

6. Of course, that's made me examine how I handle losing because (not that I'm perfect) it's been a while since I've lost something I cared so deeply about. And that's also made me wonder why I was so invested in this election.

And I've realized that, thanks to social media, we all made it so personal. Actually we made it personal and impersonal at the same time.

So much was thrown around that seemed to stab at what I believe in...and it was easy to do from the sanctuary of a keyboard. Had I been sitting face-to-face with many of these people, I think things would have been handled better. But as the election process went on, people began to personally attack each other. Which not only made me feel like my candidate lost...but you were voting against me, personally. Instead of saying to someone, "Why do you support this?" we quickly went to "You're stupid. You're a racist. If you don't vote for Hillary you're sexist" and many other personal attacks on both sides.

Please keep in mind that when you do that...we all lose.

7. Again, I mentioned this in my previous Trump post, but in many ways his terrible public behavior has prompted a lot of conversations in my house about what's appropriate and what's not. We've talked about race, religion, gender equality and other topics that might not have been fully addressed otherwise.

The question "What do I tell my children?" is a valid one. And I have the answer. You tell them what you should have been telling them all along: Bullying is not okay. Treating women with respect is not a choice - you just do it. Yes, my daughter, you are valued and you have so much to give. Yes, every race and religion is important to who we are as a country. Love is never wrong.

You will have these conversations because a bad example has been put in front of your kids. But bad examples are everywhere. I've experienced people in Human Resources roles who are racist, bosses who should have never been in a management role, and don't get me started on what our kids witness with so many celebrities. People we don't agree with are constantly in positions to influence our kids.

Now, rather than assuming they know good values when they see them, you're going to have the conversation over and over again and teach them. We should be doing that anyway.

8. In some weird way, this election has made me even more proud of my country. I didn't realize that until I attended my daughter's elementary school Veterans Day celebration the day after the election. Fifty veterans walked in as 600 children chanted "USA!" and waved American flags. They each stood and said their years of service. My daughter sang her solo, Let There be Peace on Earth, and I wiped tears from my eyes, trying to figure out what I was feeling. Was it sadness?

No. It was hope.

9. This country is fired-up about CHANGE in a way it hasn't been in a very long time. Democrats want to change the system because they feel it failed them. Republicans wanted change all along which is why they voted the way they did.

I believe that after this election, there will be more focus on finding candidates that each party can be proud of. I know that many couldn't wait to get Hillary into office and I've heard from some that Trump's private demeanor is very different from his public one. But for most of the country, this election was about picking the lesser of two evils. We deserve better than that. And I believe we will fight for it.

 10. This election has changed my perspective in so many ways. It's not fair to try and force someone to your side when you're unyielding yourself. Being dismissive of others and their opinions is not okay and, frankly, I think that's what got us into this mess. Instead of stopping and listening, in many cases we shut our minds off the moment we thought, "They don't know what they're talking about."

In this election, more than any other in my lifetime, people had reasons for voting the way they did. No one I know took this lightly. I'm tired of people blaming others who voted for a third party. I'm tired of people being thought of as pot-smoking hippies because they voted for Hillary. I'm tired of people thinking that every person who voted for Trump is going to start walking around with assault riffles come January.

I don't believe that many of the voters out there from either party are as black and white on the issues as some would like to think they are. 

The world is made up of many colors, my friends. And many shades of gray.