How Can We Heal the Divide

asphalt and white line and green grass

When the US election results were confirmed, I posted this on social media:

A stunned exhale.

Let’s keep the celebrations classy and humble.

These slim margins are like passing a class with a D minus. We still have work to do.

Stay engaged. Stay focused.

Vote EVERY year.

People had some strong reactions to my words. So I’d like to unpack them here.

A stunned exhale

I felt confident as the votes were recounted for three and a half days after the election that they would continue to trend blue and they did. Still, when the AP declared Joe Biden the winner, I was stunned. I slowly exhaled and checked Associated Press, the New York Times, and a few other reputable sources just to be sure it was true. It was. It still is. Thank goodness.

Let’s keep the celebrations classy and humble

When I have a knee-jerk reaction to anything, I try to pause and examine my reactions with curiosity (a strong emphasis on the “try”). I noticed a lot of knee-jerk reactions to my request to keep things classy and humble.

I understand the desire for in-your-face-style celebrations. Four years is a long time to endure a leader and half a populace who embodies and extols racism, homophobia, misogyny, climate change science-denying, and putting children in cages. Donald Trump’s denial of a global pandemic has now claimed the lives of more than 250,000 Americans. The USA leads the world-wide Covid-19 death toll by nearly 100,000 deaths. This is a shameful legacy for him and his supporters who have crossed the lines of human decency and morality.

Side note: four years is miniscule compared to four hundred years of slavery and oppression endured by BIPOC. When I get overwhelmed with how terrible the Trump administration has been for me and so many people, I try to remind myself to check my privilege.

There’s a lot to feel relieved, angry, and indignant about. I get that. It felt good to have some certainty after four years and two months of waiting. At that moment on Saturday morning, I felt a twinge of trust being rebuilt between me and the majority of my fellow Americans: we came together and elected a sane leader in a pandemic.

My second thought after learning that Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election was: “This win is impermanent. Right now, nearly half of our population feels how Hillary Clinton supporters felt in 2016. Trump supporters are scared, mourning, and angry. This could easily be “us” again in 2024.”

If you need to have a “HAHA, SUCKS TO BE YOU!” finger-pointing celebration, I’m not here to deny you of that. Expressing a win with righteous indignation is cathartic and healthy, but in my opinion, it’s best done privately. When we sink to the level of people whose behavior we find abhorrent, we lose our compassion toward humanity. We betray Michelle Obama’s request for us in 2016: “When they go low, we go high.”

These slim margins are like passing a class with a D minus. We still have work to do.

Anyone who’s barely passed a class can relate to the heavy consequences that come with a low passing grade.

When I say “we have work to do”, I mean all Americans. But since individuals can only control their own thoughts and actions, this is a call to anyone interested to remember: “we” are no different than “they”. Biden supporters are no different than Trump supporters.

I’m not saying this to spiritually bypass. I don’t say this with a hidden insidious meaning of: “We are all one, all lives matter”. What I mean by we’re all the same is: we are all human. And when we forget that, we elect people who benefit from our perceived division.

All humans want the same thing: to live a peaceful life. We want to know that we and our beloveds will have enough. We all want the answer to the question “Are we going to be okay?” to be yes in every moment of every day. When we’re afraid, when we live in a mindset of lack (perceived or real), history shows us time and again that we’ll do whatever and elect whoever we think will help us have enough.

Research from the Pew Research Center confirms our shared desire for peace, regardless of our wish for a blue or red wave on election night. It also shows the political divide between Americans is wider than it ever has been. The documentary drama The Social Dilemma on Netflix reveals illuminating reasons why: the architects of Google and social media algorithms admit what they created has morphed beyond the original intention.

Translation: the robots aren’t killing us all (yet), but when we don’t question the validity of what we see on our screens through multiple perspectives, we will continue to see each other as separate from, not connected to each other.

Stay engaged. Stay focused.

So what do we do? How do we heal this political divide we’re living in? That’s a question best answered by you. If you need some inspiration to get started, read on.

We listen.

We have civil conversations with people. Ones that don’t devolve into shouting matches and name-calling. Ideally in-person with masks on for the time being.

We listen.

We respect others who have opinions different from our own.

We listen.

We remember when we interact online that we’re talking to real humans (hopefully) and speak, behave, and act accordingly.

We listen.

We speak to share a perspective, not necessarily to fix or provide solutions.

We listen.

We learn to be better communicators.

We listen.

We remove ourselves from conversations that are going nowhere or furthering entrenchment in a non-productive or disrespectful way.

We listen.

Vote EVERY year.

If you take away one thing from reading this, let it be: Vote. In every. Damn. Election.

Every time you change your address: update your voter registration.

Sometimes that means voting two or even three times in one year if there’s a primary, special, or run-off election like the senate run-off election in Georgia in January 2021.

We don’t stop working to make sure that candidates we choose are elected to office are making decisions that are best for all beings.

We don’t sit back and expect that president-elect Biden and vice president Harris will take care of things for us in the next four years.

We get involved in ways that we can.

We donate money.

We make phone calls.

Our efforts make a difference. The apathetic perspective that our small actions don’t matter is what those who are in power and want to stay in power want you to believe.

We stay involved at the local level.

We remember: we are uniquely different and humanely the same.