Is the suspense killing anyone else? I cast my vote early this morning. It was actually my first time to vote in person because I’m a permanent vote-by-mail voter. That always just seemed easier, more peaceful. I could review my ballot slowly, do any additional research online before I made my final decisions, and not worry about what time to arrive at the polling place to avoid lines, but the universe apparently had other plans for me this year. My ballot never made its way to my mailbox, so I woke up bright and early this morning to arrive at my local polling place 30 minutes before it opened, hoping to be first in line, but happy to settle for 9th place.
I cast my votes and took probably a little too much pleasure in using that odd marker-pen thingy that leaves a perfect, little black mark in the bubble of your choosing, and as I was leaving, I felt a rush of emotions from excitement and pride to visceral anxiety. I came home and tried to dig into work, but kept finding myself getting distracted. I had made a pact with myself upon waking this morning to not follow the election coverage today and simply wait until tomorrow to check in on the results. I tend to be deeply impacted by the intensity that seems to be the norm for news media these days, so my plan was to stay focused on work and then maybe go for a hike in the evening to have some time completely unplugged from the digital world, but I just couldn’t quite manage to stay on task. I kept sitting down at my computer, only to stare at the screen, rather blankly, and then got hit with a really intense bout of fatigue in the late afternoon. I lied down and ended up falling asleep for a couple of hours and by the time I woke up, it was too late to get a hike in before dark.
As I was making dinner and trying to decide if there was any last hope for me getting at least a little productivity in before bed, I realized that this election has been more emotionally triggering for me than any before. Of course, there are many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that a woman being chosen as a presidential candidate by a major US political party is a history-making moment and one I am very proud to be able to witness. But more than anything, it’s the social climate I’ve seen emerge during the campaigns that has been so deeply concerning. The messaging of the campaigns and the echoes of such sentiments on social media and in conversation have gone so far beyond normal policy politics. The divisiveness, the fever pitch of anxiety and defensiveness on both sides, the deeply personal and hateful nature of so much of the commentary that has been slung back and forth, not just between the candidates, but between neighbors, friends, and family members, has been profoundly painful to watch. As I wind down for the night knowing that I will wake up tomorrow to news that will no doubt impact the future of my country in so many ways regardless of the outcome, all I can think is that I just want the barrage of anger and hatred to stop.
It's no secret that I don’t support the ideologies of Trump or that I hope never to see him hold the office of POTUS, but I also have clarity around the truth that bashing him and his supporters does not lead to anywhere positive either. Hurt people, hurt people. Scared people lash out, out of a sense of desperation and powerlessness. And no matter how you slice it, it seems pretty clear that there are wide swaths of people across our nation who have been suffering.
From my perspective, that’s something that needs to be addressed, no matter what the outcome is tomorrow. Nothing changes when we ignore the problem. In best cases, it stays exactly the same. In the worst, it festers and expands. These wounds have presented themselves because they need to be cleaned, tended to, and given the conditions for healing to take place.
Let’s not let the fear and the anger that has come to the surface during this election season get swept under the rug. Let’s look at ourselves as a nation, with honesty and curiosity, and ask what work needs to be done. How can we support each other? How can we help each other heal and in what ways can we cultivate deeper compassion for one another, because the truth is that, at our cores, we are all the same. We are all driven to survive and thrive as best we can. We all seek out connection, in whatever form that takes. We all desire to protect the ones we love.
No matter what happens tomorrow, can we just choose to see set our differences aside for a time and focus on our shared humanity? Can we come together and work collectively to create a future that allows all of us to feel recognized, supported, and safe? Because if we can do that, I truly believe that we can get through this and come out the other side infinitely stronger. And at the end of the day, that’s what each of us wants, isn’t it?