This presidential election has been a doozy. On one hand, I think it’s great that there is so much interest in elections. Those elected into public office serve a very important role and make decisions every day that impact our lives. It is important to understand what the issues are, what they mean to you, and where the candidates stand on them.
On the other hand, it has gotten vicious out there. Between the TV commercials, the radio ads, the flyers in my mailbox and my newsfeed being flooded – there is no way to escape it. (Believe me, I tried). It’s not only that we are bombarded from every single direction, but the tone this year has been especially negative. The news cycles have been dominated by one crazy headline after the next, and just when you think we’ve seen and heard it all from both sides, something even weirder and crazier happens.
The thing that has struck me more than anything else this year is not the negative paid ads. Unfortunately, that is par for the course when it comes to politics anymore. No, the thing that has struck me is how downright mean people (on both sides) are to those on the opposite side of them. There are not only the attacks via social media, but there has been vandalism, verbal arguments, and actual physical fights.
You guys, I get it. Like I said above, these people we elect into office make decisions that affect our lives. They make decisions that will continue to affect our children’s lives after they are out of office. I’ve found myself scrolling through my newsfeed only to see a post from a friend with a thought I don’t agree with.
The anger starts to bubble in my belly and I think, “How on earth can they actually believe that!?”
Sometimes I type out a response so furiously I am surprised my keyboard isn’t smoking. Most of the time I delete my comments, but I have slipped up a few times, only to engage in something I later wished I hadn’t.
People take it personally because it is personal.
Earlier this fall, I found myself harboring resentment toward some of my friends who were outspoken on social media about a few topics that I held different opinions on. I found myself wanting to avoid them in real life scenarios, even after I hid them on social media. One person in particular expressed a view that I was completely surprised by and was offended by their stance.
Then, I had a moment of clarity. I realized, I really liked this person. They were a friend that I had known for years and they hadn’t changed, I had just learned something new about them. I didn’t know what went into their stance on this issue, just like they didn’t know what went into my stance.
There is a really great TED talk on a phenomenon known as “Othering.” Othering means making wide sweeping generalizations that put everyone into specific categories. For instance, all republicans are conservative on every issue and all democrats are liberal on every issue. Othering has gotten completely out of control this election cycle, in my own personal opinion.
On my way home from work this afternoon I was listening to Robin Robert’s podcast called “Everybody Has Something.” The title of her podcast comes from her dear mother, who told her that everybody has something they are struggling with. During this particular podcast, Robin and her guest Delilah (the syndicated radio personality) made a comment that really stuck with me.
“We all have something in common.”
It’s so easy to forget that.
At the end of the day, we all want what is best for our kids. We want them to be safe, to be healthy, to be happy, to feel loved. We want those same things for ourselves.
To celebrate the end of election season (praise God!) I have two challenges for you:
- First, watch/listen to this TED Talk. As you watch it, search within yourself and be honest with yourself about times you “otherized.” As hard as I try and as much as I claim I am open-minded, I know I am guilty of this. I encourage you to reflect after you’ve watched it and think about all the othering we all see every day.
- The second is the most important. Every day for the next week, do at least one kind thing. As Robin and Delilah talk about in the podcast I mentioned, being kind is different than being nice. We hear a lot about grand gestures of good deeds, like buying coffee for everyone in line or tipping an exorbitant amount for bad service.
I am talking about smiling at a stranger and saying hello.
Helping someone who looks lost figure out where they are going.
Holding doors open for the person behind you.
Putting someone’s cart away for them at Target.
Helping someone bag their groceries at Aldi’s.
The election is going to come and go, and one side will win and one side will lose. But we will all wake up the next morning and life will go on. The world is not going to end, but we can all make it a better place for us and our children.