Elephant in the Room

Since the election, there's an elephant in the room. Or more specifically, there will be one in the Oval Office.

We all had a reason why we voted the way we did. Some of us went confidently to the polls to cast our vote; others of us gulped and closed an eye while we filled the circle next to our candidate's name. For some of us, we voted on jobs and infrastructure; or for the candidate we thought could improve racial tensions; or we voted based on pro-life versus pro-choice, or immigration policy; others of us voted against anti-Muslim rhetoric or for the person who would appoint a Supreme Court justice we'd agree with; others voted out of disgust for the opposing candidate, or cast our very first third party vote. We each put a stake in the ground and said, "This. This is the issue that decides who I will vote for." In other words, we each chose the candidate that aligned with our viewpoint and said, "This is the hill I will die on."

But we chose different hills. 

Naturally, we believe our hill is the best hill, the most informed hill, the hill that's instrumental to move our country in the way it ought to go. We look over to the people standing on other hills and think they're idiots, racists, uninformed, clueless, or bigots because they've chosen the wrong hill (and if we're on Facebook, some of us go out of our way to let them know this.) If "those people" would have experienced what we've experienced, if they've read what we've read, if they cared one iota about this country, they would have seen the light and chose a different hill. Our hill.

Can I show you another hill? 



This is the bell curve. Statistically, most of us are somewhere in the middle of this hill, some a little further to the right or left. Of course, there are extremists on the tails of this hill, but most of us are in the middle. Yet as I read comments on social media, we are treating people as if they're the extremists on the tails because they didn't choose the hill that we chose.
 
For some of us, our day to day lives will not be greatly affected by the outcome of this election. We may feel pride that our candidate won or disappointed that our candidate lost but for the most part, things will be okay for us. But listen--others of us will have a direct impact on our lives as a result of this election (see here, for instance)--and we need to grapple with it: 

- an 8 year old boy who was born in this country and is now wondering if his parents will be deported

- a former auto worker in Detroit who lost his job years ago and is on the verge of losing his home   
  who thinks Trump is his best hope to bring back his job 

- a man who was able to receive affordable coverage under Obamacare but now he wonders if he'll 
  lose that coverage because of his pre-existing condition

- a Muslim woman, who, after the election, feels like she may be targeted if she wears her hijab

- an African American girl who felt so much hope after the election of Obama but now feels 
  consumed with anger and fear over the election of a man who was openly endorsed by the KKK

- a small business owner who got behind Trump's plan to bring her tax rate down from 35% to 15%, 
  enabling her to hire more employees

You may think that listening to people on the other hills seems like a commonsense thing to do. Of course it is, but we've already written them off. Chances are, we're surrounded by people who chose the same hill we did. When we're in our circle talking about the election or who we voted for, everyone nods their head because they agree with you. What would it be like if we had relationships, on a day-to-day basis, with those who may disagree or push back on our ideas? Would your vote be different if you lived next door to that 8 year old boy and his family? If your kids played with him after school? Or is his hill too far away from yours? Or what if it was your unemployed brother in Detroit whose life has been deteriorating these past few years: would your vote be different?  Have your ever been to his hill?

Before you write this essay off as unprincipled fluff, here is my point. Knowing the little boy or the guy in Detroit may or may not change your vote at all. But we need to know, firsthand, that when we vote yes to a candidate, we are saying no to other things that will have a direct effect on real people. And we need to know those people, we need to hear those stories. Ultimately, we need to wrestle with the underbelly of our "yes" vote. We need to know what our "yes" is saying "no" to and we need real relationships with people who choose other hills so that we know the whole truth, with all its complexity, about our "yes".

We need to think beyond the safety pins. The people on other hills have stakes in the ground and have their reason for it. It's not our reason, it's not our hill and it may never be. We chose our hill because it was important to us and because it's important to us it would be wise to engage with these issues beyond politics. We need people in our lives, people from other hills, who will tell us the truth about how this affects them and we need them to inform our decisions and efforts in the future. Listen to what experiences they've had, what have they seen or read? Do this without the agenda of debating them, proving them wrong or pointing out the flaws in their thinking. Ask questions until you get a deeper sense of where they're coming from. That's called a relationship, folks. Perhaps it will change your hill, perhaps it won't. But you will better for it.

We will all be better for it. 
  
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3 comments:

  1. Thank you for these timely and wise words.....we needed to hear this today!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is excellent. I have not seen a fairer interpretation of the elections so far

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