I am not worried about November 8. On election day, people will walk into their local polling places, see their neighbors, talk about their lives. They will see Republicans and Democrats, people that they know and trust, standing guard over a process that has been tested and tried and almost always turns out OK. People who go to vote will feel proud that they have done their civic duty. All will be well.
It is November 9th that worries me. And the day after that, and the day after that. Because on November 9th, we are going to have to figure out how to repair the damage that has come from the rhetoric and contention of this election. There have been some nasty things said and done. And yet we are still going to be neighbors, going to shop at the same grocery store, sit in the same pews.
Each candidate cast a vision that set them apart, a set of hopes and ideas that they believed would best shape the future. But on November 9th we are going to have to figure out how to bring the pieces together into a whole, create a civil context where good can happen for all people. How are we going to accomplish this? In other words, how are we going to do the hard work of democracy?
I would suggest several things are going to be critical. Because not only are we learning how to operate for the common good, we are teaching our children to do so as well. One of the lessons that my children had to be taught was how to be a gracious winner and a gracious loser. Many a soccer tournament and cross country meet provided opportunities to test our ability to let go, to be kind when we are frustrated, to take personal responsibility for peace. Now on a national scale, there will be winners and losers. That is the democratic way. And we will have to be kind and calm. We will have to congratulate and concede.
Of course we practice this every two years. But this election cycle has exposed frustrations and complaints that could permanently divide us, and we cannot afford to let this happen. There will be winners and there will be losers. And wherever we fall, we will have to be adults. Gracious and civil adults.
Another critical practice that our society will need to engage is to envision ourselves as whole again. Envision what is the common good. It seems to me, I deeply hope, that our differences are about how to get to common good. We have a wide range of ideas about that. But our ideas cannot become ends in themselves. They have to lead somewhere, be adapted into progress. We cannot make our ideas into ditches that we are willing to die in. There is enough violence, and not enough useful and meaningful compromise.
In order to envision our common good, we need to talk to one another. Not shout, not dismiss, not search for the worst, not broadcast the failures. One lesson we have to learn is that we all have faults and failures. If that is what we are going to focus on, we will spiral into a cycle of constant revenge and nastiness and inertia.
By talk, I mean face to face, meaningful, interactive civil conversations. Conversations that Krista Tippett would say must include generous listening, humility, patience and hospitality. Let’s be honest, we have a very hard time with this. We have been taught to put being right ahead of being kind. But being right can be a very lonely victory. We need each other. Everyone has value and important contributions to make. We are wasting a lot of time being right. It certainly hasn’t created a better world for all people.
So, we have to be gracious, to have important and productive conversation, and we have to move on. Personally I am tired of the stuckness of the political system, tired of a lack of compromise that leads nowhere. How we will forgive some of the things that have been said, some of the distasteful things we have seen, some of the hurt that we have experienced, I don’t know. But we have to. Again, we are adults. We reconcile. Or we stay frustrated and stuck.
What I am certain of is that we all have to participate. I heard a quote recently by Rev. Otis Moss of Cleveland. He was speaking on racism but I think it applies to the bigger picture as well. He said, “Some of us are guilty, all of us are responsible.” In the healing of this nation, beginning November 9, all of us are responsible. What will you to do heal and recreate our country into a place where we can be proud to belong?