An Election is Always an Opportunity

So why do many see it as an ordeal?

Photo by Camylla Battani on Unsplash

Regardless of the outcome of the 2020 election, we can emerge stronger but this won’t happen if we don’t make a concerted effort to get involved. The election will take place whether our chosen candidate remains in the race or not and there will be consequences.

And yet, an election is always an opportunity for change, not an ordeal to avoid by self-soothing. We must welcome the growing pains instead of seeking refuge in echo chambers or detachment. Although the tenor of social media exchanges among Democrats and Americans in general is as vicious as it is belligerent, it really needn’t be.

We can all elevate the political discourse by answering this simple question and get to know ourselves and each other in the process: In 2020, who are we as Americans and, most importantly, who do we want to be?

It isn’t because we’re a hot mess and the butt of all jokes around the world that things need to stay the same. Other people’s opinions about us shouldn’t matter anyway as long as we’re comfortable with who we are.

Here’s the problem: Most of us aren’t, we feel left behind, disenfranchised, forgotten, or even erased.

Still, we generally agree our Americanness shouldn’t be contingent on skin hue, sexual orientation, means, or geographical coordinates.

So why let our government decide otherwise and enforce policies that contradict our values? That’s what elections are for: Upholding America’s principles as outlined in the Constitution.

Ideally before the document becomes redundant.

But how to inject nuance and critical distance into a debate so overpowered by noise it’s hard to make out any signal?

We can step away from the noise and steer clear of agitators peddling outrage to rile up the already indignant masses. No matter how dumb someone appears, we can resist the urge to add more noise by setting them straight.

The constant finger pointing of call out culture won’t bring us together but dialogue will. Never dismiss your interlocutor, acknowledge their emotions and ask them why they feel that way. And then figure out a way to address the issue that works for you both, together. It’s an opportune time to show them how the candidate you support plans to address it, for example, and be prepared to listen to why they prefer their candidate, too.

Often, you’ll find emotions come from a unique combination of issues, morals, and ethics combined with a scarcity mindset. The latter is omnipresent in late-stage capitalism, whatever side of the political divide we’re on.

We’re all scared and we’re all looking for relief, for a chance to catch our breath and lead a healthy, productive life that doesn’t erode our dignity.

Finding the emotional and intellectual maturity to set aside our egos is as easy as being curious about the person next to us. In the age of social media, this means everyone on the other side of the screen.

How about approaching them as a fellow American rather than a threat to your resources, your way of life, your values? Instead of mocking or insulting others and what they believe in, we can make the effort to get to know one another.

This isn’t about changing anyone’s mind but about making people think; canvassing isn’t about propaganda, it’s an appeal to reason.

Thinking, alas, isn’t everyone’s strong point but those who do it tend to get their way while those who do not end up enduring decisions they couldn’t be bothered taking an interest in. While anti-intellectualism is alive and well in the Trump era, there was never any pretense of him being ‘the brains’ behind anything.

Others do the thinking for him.

And those others could be us, with a different figurehead.

Refusing to believe we have any say in this election is tantamount to handing over a blank ballot paper and letting someone else vote for us. Why even would we when we have all the tools we need at our fingertips to make our voices heard?

We have the internet, we have social media, we have diverse platforms are we using them to further our own self-serving agendas instead of putting our heads together?

What’s our excuse this time when the last tantrum we threw had disastrous consequences for America?

Elections aren’t personal, they’re not about you or me, they’re about 330-ish million of us who call ourselves Americans. Voting is a small act of service we can do for our country every now and then so why can’t we do it with reason, heart, and a modicum of grace?

But please let’s remember we’re not choosing a best friend for the next four years, only the person who represents who we are as a nation.

I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.

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