Never in a million years did I think much of anything could drive me off Facebook. You see, I love it ardently (enough so, in fact, that I blithely overlook its time-sapping abilities, its intrusive personal information practices, and more pictures of kittens than I care to see). In the wake of this week’s election results, I reached a point where I. Couldn’t. Even. Read. One. More. Post. Where my anxiety shot through the ceiling and it was hard to find a single encouraging thought.
It’s not because of the “idiot Liberals.” Nor is it because of the “xenophobic Conservatives.” It’s not even “the annoying Independents who obviously don’t even CARE who wins.” Or the “apathetic morons” who didn’t vote at all. (Editor’s note: I don’t feel that way about any of you, this is just the vibe I’ve gathered from the internet this week.)
It’s the fact that SO many people are being unkind, defensive, offensive, and all-or-nothing in their thinking. Countless people lamented (loudly) that people who voted as they did were being oppressed by those who voted the other way. This is legit, as I also saw posts berating, generalizing, and villainizing people who voted either way. Next came the posts blasting and defaming people who voted third party, felt lukewarm about the two main candidates (or outright disliked both), or who didn’t vote at all. Scores of judgements flew around the internet. No one was immune, and no one could do anything right. I’m an idealist by nature, but I pretty much had to retreat at that point, lest I lose my faith in humanity.
Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own Philosophy of Life. (I know, it’s been awhile since I’ve even been here, and we’ve only known each other for a couple of blog posts, but I guess it’s time to pull that out for show and tell.) My Rule #2 for All of Life is, “Remember: Everyone is doing the best they can with what they have at the time.” (The only rule important enough to precede it is Rule #1, “Everything goes better when you’re not hungry, tired, or in a hurry, so avoid those states when possible,” but that isn’t quite the point at the moment.)
Initially, I devised Rule #2 to give myself perspective on trivial things, like slow drivers in front of me and crabby store clerks. However, in our crazed, frantic, post-election society, I realized that it applies profoundly. I truly believe that EVERY person (if there are exceptions, I would guess they are few) who voted did his or her best to vote based on his or her own genetics, upbringing, education (or lack thereof), life experience, and perspective. (Similarly, those who didn’t vote didn’t do so based on all those factors.) We can dislike the way a person voted, but it doesn’t seem fair to hate her for it, because she came to vote that way for complicated reasons. We can fail to understand our friend’s post-election feelings and emotions, but it isn’t fair to attack him for those feelings, because he came by them honestly. And if we want to change people’s perspectives, we have to address all those fundamental factors that play into those perspectives.
Casting blame, calling names, angry tirades, and whining won’t get us very far. It’s certainly not going to create the unity that we need to look around, figure out what are the real problems within our society, and then set about resolving them. At the end of the day, most of the issues about which we feel passionately CANNOT be resolved without empathy and understanding of both sides. We have to be able to sit with discomfort and fear, hear all the perspectives without taking alternative views as personal affronts, and look at all the shades of grey. Can you imagine what this photo would look like if we edited out everything except the black and the white? Our society would look just as boring.
In writing this, I’ve also come to realize that the same is probably true for our post-election reactions: We’re all doing the best we can with what we have in this moment. Sometimes, the best we can muster is fear, fury, defensiveness, or sheer retreat. Let’s try to give ourselves understanding for that. After all, feelings and gut reactions “are what they are.” But then, let’s pick ourselves up and figure out how to move forward and bring ourselves and others to a more enlightened place.
What am I going to do, going forward? At least for now, I think Facebook and I still need to see other people . . . we’ve just been through too much this week. But I am going to work with every fiber of my being to fill my own thoughts with compassion and to fling kindness around like confetti. I will promise that I will protect you, respect you as a fellow human, and love you– ALL of you, whether you’re black, white, any color in between, gay, straight, Muslim, Jewish, the strongest evangelical Christian I know, the most skeptical atheist I know, the most Liberal friend in my Facebook feed, the most Conservative person I’ve ever met, or someone who doesn’t even vote.
I have your back. Please, please, try and find the care and empathy to have one another’s backs, as well.
With Sincere Love,