A vote for courage
Author’s note: I penned these thoughts in the closing days of the 2016 election cycle, but didn’t publish in order to avoid accidentally influencing people away from their civic duty to vote. Just came across this entry today. Given the divisive post-election climate, perhaps it might be helpful to some.
November 7, 2016 - We are faced with a terrible choice.
If there is one thing I feel I can really know this week, it is that neither of our two foremost candidates for President possesses the character of someone I want leading our nation.
For nearly all, one candidate’s flaws seem to pale in comparison with the other’s. One vision for America — and accompanying baggage — feels less dangerous. And so we pick sides.
In any election where we are choosing between the lesser of two evils, we cannot help but be driven apart. As we dwell on the obvious insufficiencies of the opposing candidate, we tend to judge all those in their camp for tacitly approving such ills. This trend drives a powerful wedge. Our natural divisions begin to look that much more severe; the opposition’s shortcomings that much more sinister. Though some from both sides certainly hold despicable motives for supporting their candidate; our differences are often rooted in nothing more threatening than a variance in perspective; in upbringing; in prioritization.
But, how have we become so insistent, so certain, that the opposition’s flaws will usher in the imminent downfall of our nation when the flaws of our own position are so damning? I submit that our own weakness and the dangerous nature of contemporary society have rendered us deeply afraid — afraid of losing; afraid of powerlessness; afraid of insignificance; afraid of other — and that this fear summons a powerful urge to be proven right, to win.
Our desire to win is natural. It is human. It is quintessentially American. But, for all its ubiquity, our fear-based, party-driven competitive ambition blinds us. Blinds to the destructive nature of this process; to the great moral depths which we are stooping in order to ‘secure the Supreme Court’ or ‘end police brutality’ or whatever that drop dead issue is for you. If we turn this election into some sort of line-in-the-sand moral moment; staunchly rallying behind candidates who are themselves morally bankrupt, we leave our nation vulnerable to corrupted, divisive choices in years to come.
Let’s be crystal clear. Trump or Clinton will win this election. The time to mount a viable alternative is passed and we must live with the consequences of this collective moral failure. However, it is not too late to salvage our national dignity by voting and living with courage.
Courage, within such a context, is a willingness to face the fact that your side may not emerge victorious and that the ‘greater evil’ of which you are so terrified may prevail.
Courage is a commitment — even in defeat — to living alongside your opponents despite your areas of respectful disagreement.
Courage is a willingness to prioritize a) your own principles and b) unity with your fellow American as ends drastically more important than fighting viciously to help a ‘lesser evil’ secure the White House.
Voting — red, blue, or otherwise — is an important civic duty, but the most powerful impact you can make this year lies with the way you treat and view your fellow American. Regardless of how you choose to vote — or how they do — we must be united by a stronger bond than our political identity. We are all humans and cannot move past this critical moment in our collective history until we begin to treat each other as such. With the courage to accept our differences and hold the outcome of this election with an open hand, we can begin to lay the foundation for a better tomorrow.