Whatever your political views, I think all of us can agree that this year’s presidential race has been unusual. Mostly unusually depressing and horrifying.
I haven’t quite known how to handle it at times, but this week, after watching the playbacks from the third presidential debate, I have decided to take stock of the things I have learned so far from this experience. Because I like to at least learn something from the traumatic things I go through in life.
1. I do not like bullies.
I don’t like Trump. I’ll just put that out there right away. I actually haven’t personally interacted with anyone who claims to like him. But I really, really don’t like him. Like the idea of having him as president makes me want to run around the block screaming in disgust.
I usually try my best to see the good in everyone (as I was taught at my Quaker school growing up), but in this case, it’s unusually difficult.
I think I can boil my strong dislike of Mr. Trump to one simple factor: He is a bully. He has shown over and over again during this political race that he is more than just brash, unconventional, or “off the cuff.” No, he is nothing so harmless as that. He is downright disrespectful, demeaning, and domineering.
Mocking a handicapped person’s handicap is not “unconventional,” it’s completely and horrifically unacceptable. Making comments offering tacit consent to killing off one’s political opponent is not brash, it’s frighteningly irresponsible. Trump doesn’t merely have a volatile temperament, he seems to have a very low value of those around him and for the potential consequences of his actions.
I don’t care if every single policy he was promoting lined up perfectly with my political beliefs, there is no way I would ever see someone like him as an acceptable representative and leader of my home country, not to mention the biggest superpower in the world.
I am just glad that more and more people seem to be recognizing these dangerous qualities before it’s too late.
2. I am susceptible to becoming biased, just like everyone else.
I admit that there have been times in the past few weeks when I have laughed uproariously at something Donald Trump or one of his supporters has said or done. Maybe part of that is simply needing a bit of humor to break through all this, but maybe that also has not been my best self being realized. I don’t ever want to become what I just said above I so greatly dislike.
I don’t want to become someone unable to see both sides of an issue. I don’t want to lose my ability to understand the opposing perspective from mine.
Throughout this campaign, I have tried not to voice my rather intense opinions unnecessarily, where I know broken relationships are much more likely to result than anything positive. But I have found myself quite angry and even shocked about things people have been saying about Hillary. Namely, labeling her a criminal, when she hasn’t been found so by the justice system, and blaming her for her husband’s conduct when he was in office. (Here is a blog post I appreciated greatly about that topic.)
At times I have wanted to take a hiatus from Facebook, because I don’t want to lose respect for my Facebook friends and I don’t want to go around feeling angry all the time.
But one positive thing I am taking away from all this is a wake up call about how easy it is for us humans to become polarized into us and them. It can be incredibly tempting to demonize the “enemy,” to stick with your “team” and start seeing in black and white.
I don’t want to disregard the gray. Because life rarely operates in absolutes.
3. I am not in control.
I can’t control the outcome of a national election or what the candidates do once they step into office. I can’t control how other people vote or what they believe. I can’t even control my friends’ opinions, much less all the people I don’t know.
I can speak up for I believe is right. I can stand up for justice. I can refuse to see and speak in absolutes. I can seek to understand those with whom I disagree and choose to listen. I can model respect and love for my students and those around me. I can continue living a life of integrity, a life of lifting others up, affirming them, and helping them see the beauty and potential they are carrying inside.
But ultimately, I am not in control. And I think that’s a really good reminder for me. Sometimes I get twisted up in knots about the injustices in the world. I get overwhelmed by all the troubled people I want to help. And it’s good to care. And it’s good to do what I can. But it’s also good to realize I don’t have to carry the world on my shoulders. Someone Else already is.