The election is now over, but thanks to the wonders of publishing deadlines, I don’t know how it came out as I write this, although you might as you read this. Still, as a contentious, but refreshingly competitive and engaging midterm election winds down, I find myself making wishes for this country that I love. No particular election result will change what I think we need to see happen in Washington and in our communities.
We know from past experience — and lots of it — that the pendulum swings when it comes to political party control of our government. We’ve seen control switch back and forth between Republicans and Democrats. Regardless of your personal political persuasion, you’ve survived each swing of that pendulum and so have I, and we will do so again in the future — unless we tear our country apart with partisan vitriol.
What I’m convinced we cannot survive as a nation — as “united” states — is the ongoing belittling, lack of cooperation and plain nastiness that has recently been shown by individuals and groups on both sides for those who would take a different approach to national dilemmas.
If you've stopped talking to your sibling because he disagrees with you politically or have unfriended people you've known for decades, if you can't work alongside someone because you landed on different sides of a Supreme Court nomination, then the problem might actually be you.
It’s an interesting fact that a marriage can survive a lot. Couples can overcome loss, tragedy, poverty, mental illness, substance abuse, unemployment, even infidelity if they work at it. But scientific research says there’s one thing that’s pretty much lethal for any relationship:
If one person in the marriage shows contempt for the other, it may take a while for the death throes to finish, but the union is dead.
I think it’s a lesson for a nation at war within itself. If we treat each other with contempt, we’re done on the united-we-stand front. We will prove ourselves weak and vulnerable to our enemies and we will have very little of value to offer our friends and allies or each other.
The political realm is the only venue where anyone thinks a contemptuous attitude is even remotely constructive. In the workplace, faced with a challenge, we’d all contribute ideas to shore up the business. We’d never assess the areas where we disagree and then refuse to listen to each others’ suggestions or seek a fix. "I don't care if Jake knows how to keep my job alive. He voted wrong." Yet I know families that are shattered because of different views on Donald Trump.
I don’t know how you assess yours, but my political beliefs are one part of who I am or what I value. I'm far more likely to tell you I'm a mom or a Christian than to state some party affiliation. My views don't even follow strict party lines consistently, and they are not static. I certainly don't value them more than my relationship with God or my siblings or my decadeslong friendships.2 comments on this story
I also hope we regain some moral footing — and this massive lapse is not a one-party failing. Really bad behavior in the name of I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong politics has devastated us. I think it’s a splotch on our collective soul, actually. No exaggeration. When you’re willing to hurt the defenseless or sacrifice what you've been taught your whole life is moral for the sake of “victory,” that’s no win. And when I say moral footing, I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking basics: Be honest. Be nice. Share. Don’t be mean. Stop calling people names. Keep your hands to yourself. Apologize if you hurt someone. Do unto others as you’d have others do unto you. Show some self-control and self-respect.
It’s not complex. It’s the stuff most children learn before first grade.
No election will break this country. We have to do that ourselves. Let's not.