The people have spoken in different ways. Some this day are jubilant. Others are deeply disappointed. Friends, we don’t all feel the same way. In fact, as previously posted amidst this setting, the candidates have spent much of the past year actually encouraging us to not feel the same. In order to propel their individual candidacy — arguably advocating the end justifies the means — the candidates have intentionally divided the country in order to drum up increased passion for their agenda. Here’s the problem: the election is done, but the people remain divided.
Many will take to the oratorical airwaves to proclaim that there exists no division; in fact, one of the many things I appreciated about Pres. Obama’s acceptance speech Tuesday night was his recognition of our differences, but his added comments that “we are not as divided as our politics suggests” nor “as cynical as the pundits believe.” Perhaps not as divided or as cynical, but the Intramuralist suggests that we will only not be that segregated if we are intentional in addressing this issue. There is no way around it; we are a nation in which millions of boys and girls weekly stand up in their classrooms, affirming our existence as one indivisible nation under God, and yet, we haven’t acted like it for years.
So how do we become less divided or cynical? How does the healing begin?
Perhaps if I had all of life’s answers I wouldn’t be as busy with this blog nor my self-amusing caricature habit (all right, I’d still be doodling those pronounced facial features). But I have a sense of a few steps essential in our healing…
Step 1: Start now.
Healing can’t wait until next month or next year or the next election cycle. If we want to keep the division from assuming permanent root, we must begin the healing today. Looking it in the eye. Calling it what it is. And making a commitment to seriously and soberly address the divisiveness.
Step 2: Be empathetic.
If you’re like me, you found the initial 24 hours on Facebook and Twitter a bit overwhelming. Some gloated. Some complained. Some announced their readiness to exit the country. Others responded with ‘good riddance.’ The bottom line with each response — from those who both loved and loathed the results: neither worked to understand the emotions of those who felt differently. Instead of empathy, they chose arrogance. Arrogance is never attractive.
Step 3: Eliminate the following words: “mandate” and “compromise.”
Many will claim a mandate… “We voted. We won!” And quite true is that such is often the winner’s bold assertion and the loser’s rueful admonition. Please remember the context of this post. We are acknowledging a “divisible” state of America. With an estimated popular vote margin of 50% to 48%, almost as many people voted for the victor as against. Thus, to profess a mandate is not a process that builds unity; it will encourage further division.
Let the record also show that many others will claim the need for compromise. While I was never fond of the President’s 2009 quip that “Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won,” the reality is that Obama was victorious. More voters supported him than Gov. Romney. Hence, Obama should not be expected to always meet in the middle.
Step 4: Listen.
Remember (as does my 15 year old) that to listen means to both hear and consider. To only hear does not qualify. To only hear and consider the likeminded also does not qualify. To listen reveals an interactive, respectful process with those on all sides of any aisle.
And Step 5: Be humble.
Earlier I mentioned that arrogance is never attractive. I can’t say that enough. Confidence is contagious, but arrogance is polarizing. When career Major League Baseball stolen base leader, Rickey Henderson, declared he was “the greatest of all time — thank you,” did that make any feel better about his accomplishment? My point is that humility is always more unifying than arrogance. Allow me to be clear: humility doesn’t mean silence nor submissiveness; it doesn’t equate to weakness. Humility means joyfully being of one spirit, doing nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit… considering others… and looking to their interests. It is not an abandoning of one’s own interests, but rather, it is a respecting of those who are different.
We do feel differently this day. We are in need of leadership. We have some tough issues to tackle in this democratic, debt-ridden, capitalistic, and freedom-driven society. We are also in need of healing. If we begin now, we can be that one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. It’s time to be intentional.