The polarizing climate of this election cycle isn’t lost on anyone. Every four years we encounter a strange and finite period of time when social media posts cause in-depth arguments, family dinners turn even more hostile, and a third of the office stops socializing with Jerry from two cubes down until after the holidays. This year, the force feels stronger. The tension is palpable, figurative and literal political correctness has been tossed aside, and our imperfections as humans have reared their ugly heads.
We all have our beliefs; America was founded on them. Living in a country rooted in disagreement and fighting for what we believe in, we have tenacity in our blood. As a nation, this made us free. As people, this makes us passionate. But deep down, every person who has ever existed, from Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, is filled with both passions and faults, which is important to keep top of mind.
Our life experiences alter our views on humanity. Taught to forgive, but not forget, we bring these experiences — dressed as memories or ghosts — with us on our journey. Edmund Wilson once said, “No two persons ever read the same book,” because as humans with unique pasts, we interpret words, ideas and behaviors quite differently. It’s a simple enough perspective, but often not at the forefront of our minds — especially when engaging in the often-frustrating conversations that come to light in a high-anxiety environment like an election year.
With varying religious beliefs, levels of education, races, sexes, and economic classes (amongst others) dividing us, it makes sense that we have different values. We live differently, receive different treatment, and like different things. But what makes us different also makes us great. After all, the freedom to live and love and express ourselves how we want is something to be celebrated.
That said, it can be hard. Logging on to Facebook and seeing someone you love spreading ignorance is hard. Reading an uneducated retweet by a person you professionally respect is hard. And have you ever read a comment section that didn’t make you want to throw your phone out of a window? It’s easier to perpetuate hate behind the security of a screen, but often, it gets even more personal. Engaging in debates can be eye opening, but only if both sides truly express a certain level of open-mindedness. Taking the form of awkward conversations, hateful speech and/or protests, it can be tough to move past these experiences, especially when it involves someone you like outside of a political context.
The bottom line is — we are imperfect people living in a world of gray. The blacks and whites live only in our minds, and as much as it’s in our nature to fight, it is also in our nature to love.
So, as a friendly reminder as we enter this last week of polarizing campaigns and overall political chaos (it’s probably far from over, but we can hope), love your neighbor — whoever he is — even if it’s hard. Remember that we have more in common than we have different. As Michael Che brilliantly said on last night’s SNL, “No matter who wins this election, we can’t let political parties and the media divide us, okay? We’re not different; we’re all the same….We all own a sweater that we never wear but we’ll never throw away. We all have that one line of a dumb song we don’t even like stuck in our heads for days at a time. We all say, ‘You too!’ when our deli guy says, ‘Have a good show, man’ and then walk away mumbling to ourselves like, ‘Why am I so stupid?’ It’s because we’re all the same. Who cares if we can’t agree on global warming or religion? It doesn’t matter, because someday, we’re all going to drown and burn in hell together.”
As essential as it is to vote (It’s important! Do it!), it’s more essential to be nice. Going into this week, please remember Ellen’s infamous phrase, “Be kind to one another.” We are all imperfect humans, the world will continue to turn after Tuesday, and as a country — a United one— we’ll figure the rest out when it comes.