Despite your party affiliation, every American can agree that this election has been nothing short of ugly.
I won’t say it’s the ugliest our government has ever been. After all, Preston Brooks once beat Charles Sumner within an inch of his life with a cane after a Senate meeting back in 1856, all because Sumner insulted a cousin of Brooks’. That actually happened. These people took family very seriously.
This election has, however, been the ugliest in recent memory, and I find it absolutely heartbreaking.
I remember the 2008 election. I was 17 so I could not vote, but I knew that the stakes were high. I heard a lot of hate in my Texas high school. Most of it concerned Obama’s race and not his policy, and I resented that. I was in debate and was fairly well educated on the political happenings at the time, so I was comfortable arguing with anyone who would stand still long enough for me to get a sentence or two out of my mouth.
I argued with all sorts of students. Some were of voting age, and some were not. I argued with adults and teachers. My beliefs were so right and their beliefs were so wrong. In the end, I strained a lot of relationships, but at least I had some conviction for my beliefs.
Today, I feel the same. I am not happy with the candidates we have to choose from, so instead of voting for a candidate, I voted for my values.
Values like inclusion, equality, and opportunity are the values that built this country, so it only seems fitting that they guide me to a voting decision. But in truth, my vote doesn’t matter.
Now, let me be clear. In this election, my vote does matter. Everyone’s does. As democracy relies on an educated and informed citizenry, so too does it rely on an engaged citizenry. This means that every individual with the ability to vote should vote. Abstaining does nothing. It has no effect, but casting a ballot does.
No, I don’t mean that my vote doesn’t matter in the election. I mean that tomorrow morning when all of the votes are in, when the election has been decided and a new president has been selected to lead our country, my vote does not matter. Yours doesn’t either. Life will go on. Despite who each of us voted for, we will need to live and work alongside each other all the same.
It has been very tempting with all of this ugliness swirling around and this intense clash of values to begin harboring hate. I’m not immune to it. I have posted on Facebook that I would not be friends with a Trump supporter because of their inherent values, and this is something that I continue to struggle with.
My beliefs and values are so right and theirs are so wrong.
I have to remind myself that these are just people, and that all humans are flawed, including myself. What I currently think is so right could later seem glaringly ignorant. Hindsight is 20/20, after all.
I don’t know that I will ever change my views on equality for women, job programs, and the supreme court. But I do know that I will have to see my Trump-supporting family members at every holiday. I will have students who wear “Make American Great Again” hats to class. I will make new friends and not know their voting record, and will know them far too well to care who they voted for.
I know that after tomorrow, my vote does not count, but my humanity does.
So, today I am championing Humanity and the ability to be kind. I challenge each of you to choose Humanity as well.
To some of you, this may mean to pour yourselves into religion: embracing our humanity. To others, it is simply forgiving and forgetting a voting record.
All I ask is that after this election, we can all love each other a little more, and hate each other a little less.
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