And just like that, it is over, and only beginning at the same time. The campaigning for the White House has ended, but a new campaign is begging for our attention. A mission we must pursue with more passion than any candidate who came before us. We must dig deep and decide that we stand for something greater.
We must be a living act of our allegiance,”one nation, under God,indivisible”in kindness.
If you are connected in any way to social media, you have seen it. You have read posts, blogs, tweets and seen memes. You may have been engaged in a debate via text, where tone is interpreted and there are no faces to strike with the words. Or you may have disengaged, closed the laptop, hit delete, un-friend, or hide. Regardless of your stance, your opinion or your beliefs, you have seen it. The divide. The hatred. Hurt people, hurting people. You have been made to see the involvement of so many people in the future of America, wanting change and making history, as a blessing. As is said to come with blessings, a burden, the debate of hate. Our very heavy and hurtful country split open and oozing, like a melon fallen from the cart.
I am not one for politics. Mainly because I hate confrontation and while I believe whole-heartedly that people are entitled to their opinions, I also believe the privilege of this is so often lost. If questioned, my guess is many would agree that the first amendment is a solid rock on which America stands, speaking our minds without being persecuted is a gift. The challenge isn’t in standing by this freedom, although often taken for granted. The struggle for many is honoring it with grace and love. It is the difficulty in agreeing to disagree, without mockery, slander or belittling. It is the concept of loving thy neighbor regardless of the sign in their front yard that is foreign to so many. The struggle is knowing that opposing views can lead to beautiful growth and that sharing values can bring upon change if only we allow our minds and hearts to remain open and kind.
The lesson I am taking from all of this, like it or not, is that my children are watching. Even if they are remaining silent, they now know things. Things I wish they were not yet hearing. A recent conversation had me thinking about election days when I was a child. I couldn’t summon a memory. I have no recollection of my parents talking about candidates, discussing platforms, political parties or taking me with them to the polls. It may have happened, I just don’t remember and I never asked them about it.
My only memory of anything remotely controversial was watching the news on a TV that had been wheeled into our elementary school classroom during Desert Storm. A few days later there was a photo on the front page of our local paper. In the distance, a line of buses, in the foreground, the profile of my classmate, hand outstretched, crying. One of the soldiers, climbing the school bus stairs, was her Dad. That is all I remember. For years I was able to be a child, without fear and worry, trusting those before me had my best interests in mind, paving the way.
Now, I think again, of my children. I think about the things they have heard. The things they now know as a result of this election. Their anxiety, driven by the thought that any of these things are actually true. Forced into fear. These are not the things of childhood. So, as a parent I have been trying my best over the past weeks to educate them. Not on political parties or platforms. Not on the he said, she said. Not even on what the issues are and where each stands. This education is of the heart. It is how I want to settle differences in my home. How I want them to handle disagreements in their schools and later in their workplace. This education is about freedom and respect, about sacrifices and honor. It is a lesson in the golden rule and gratitude. There is a chapter about personal responsibility and hard work. A discussion on diversity and equal opportunity. A debate on disrespect, tolerance, taking a stand and forgiveness. It is a lecture on working together for a common good. It is the idea that I stumbled across during my lesson planning, that the right and left wing belong to the same bird. It is about being for the whole bird.
It is because of these conversations that I am thankful for this election. I chose to use it as an illustration. A tangible way to highlight the type of person my children may or may not want to become. Please let me be clear, this standard is not set based on the candidates. There are lessons there, of course, but this idea is something more. A way of asking themselves if they would like to see their own face in the mirror of someone else’s actions during a time of turmoil and change. Reminding them that how you treat those who disagree with your values says more about you than it does about them. Hate will never be the answer if we want to spread our wings to greater heights.
I believe American can be great again, but this belief has very little to do with who will be coming to Washington. If we rise above the hate and counter with love, American can be great. If we model what we preach and are mindful, even in the wake of disagreement, American can be great. If we are respectful of the freedoms we have that others have willing died for, American can be great. If we start at home, love each other, show respect and kindness, American can be great. If we teach our children, to love thy neighbor, despite all physical appearances, social and economic stigmas, simply because it is the right thing to do, America can be great.
Even better, it could again be one nation, under God.