It’s a weird experience writing a column early on Election Day, knowing it will be published the day after — and it’s more than possible we still won’t know who has been elected president of the United States for the upcoming term.
I prayed first thing this morning for this country, which I love. I didn’t pray that Donald Trump or Joe Biden would win or lose. I prayed for my country’s well-being and for the people in it. I prayed we’d all show courage and extend kindness and forgive each other where needed.
Although I didn’t use these words, I prayed that a gracious God would give this nation a dose of heartburn medicine to temper some of the acidity that’s been vexing national discourse.
We each have so much to offer to each other and the service of this nation. The political piece should be part of what strengthens us, not something folks of different political persuasions have to find a way to rise above in order to be civil.
I am at odds with some of my closest relatives in terms of who I favor, given the choices before me. I joke that I tried to cancel at least one of my siblings’ votes when I dropped my ballot in the box outside the county government building a couple of weeks ago.
The truth is, I have liked some presidents more than others over the course of my life — and usually agreed with at least a few policies every term, while never agreeing completely with any politician.
I have, however, always loved that sibling whose vote I tried to cancel out. And politics will never dim that.
Knowing people have different opinions, even on very important topics, isn’t the problem. Demonizing others because of the differences is.
When I find myself doing eye rolls over others’ political wrong-headedness, I remind myself that in all the years I physically filled out my parents’ individual ballots in the privacy of the voting booth — both were blind and required sighted help then — my mother and father never voted exactly the same. That’s something I never told either of them; it wasn’t my tale to tell.
Politics was a small piece of who they were, practically insignificant compared to their adoring partnership, which no vote on earth could have changed. I had a lot of spirited debates with my folks when I thought their political opinions were off. And I smile now when my children try to set me straight in political discussions, too. But political discord does not — and should not — endanger us.
There’s nothing amusing about allowing political disagreements to be corrosive. I have friends who genuinely believe violence could erupt when the results of this 2020 election are in. Never, ever, since I cast my own vote for the first time decades ago have I seen businesses put plywood protection on their windows as if they’re expecting a hurricane of hatred. That’s exactly what’s been happening in some communities this week.
We have an election process and the aftermath should never be subverted by forceful tantrums from those who don’t get their way.
Much of what America should be celebrating most joyfully has been lost as people have disagreed by shouting each other down or showing contempt for those with whom they disagree. Studies have shown that a romantic relationship won’t survive if one partner treats the other with contempt.
I think it’s probably true of a nation, too.
We should be glad we are diverse, with different ideas. Innovation and excellence comes when teams form to tackle a problem, shooting different ideas off each other and working toward a solution.
Nothing good ever emerged from an echo chamber.