Why I Love and Hate Election Year

 In Pei Blog

Despite the nastiness and stereotyping, political season challenges us to care… and to face people who are different from us.

(Note: This post was written over two weeks before the 2016 election results. Dynamics change so quickly as things develop, as do interpretations of words and points, so please keep that in mind as you read this.)

Every four years in the United States, the country experiences a wave of energy and anxiety.  That’s the best way I can describe election year.  There are all manner of inflammatory e-mails and social media posts about the presidential candidates, and wars of words between supporters of all political parties and affiliations.  All sorts of social issues rise to the surface, which are hotly debated.  People get riled up and energized.  And then after the new president is announced, things die down for a few years.

I love it… and I hate it.  Here are some of my thoughts and feelings about election year in the U.S.A.:

  • I love the energy that drives people to care about their country, and to become aware about the most critical issues of our time.

    I don’t appreciate rudeness, but I don’t mind it when people express their beliefs with rawness — even imperfectly.  As long as they don’t put others down, I value this expression as passion.  I’ll take passion over apathy any day of the week.  It’s inspiring to see that people believe they have a voice that matters, and they feel ownership about their country.  That’s not something to take for granted.

  • I hate the ways that people put others down, instead of channeling their energy into advocating for what they believe in.

    When we insult others, it’s often a sign of unresolved insecurities and fears — but if we have the courage to acknowledge and face those fears, we can move in a more constructive direction.

  • I love that during election year, each person is forced to acknowledge the reality that their country is more diverse than they realized.

    Every four years, I see upper-middle class individuals from the cities who simply cannot understand the mindset of those who live in more rural parts of the country.  But those “other” people include smart, informed individuals who have good reasons for what they believe.  And they have a vote and a voice, too.

I also see Caucasians who are slowly realizing that ethnic minorities now make up a significant percentage of the demographic in certain states, and they also have a vote and voice that cannot be ignored.  And we must pay attention to what drives them, and what issues they care about.

During election year, we all must face the truth that there are people who are different from us, and who disagree with us — and sometimes, the final outcome or decision won’t turn out as we would like because of those people.  It may be frustrating, but it’s a normal part of what it means to live in diversity… and it’s healthy.

This is an aspect of political dialogue that seems to be overlooked.  How do we treat people who disagree with us?  We focus so much on “what side” people are on, rather than on how we should engage those who are different.  Speaking of that…

  • I hate that there’s so much stereotyping.

    I find that people are incredibly “reactive” and quick to put labels on others during election year.  It almost feels like all everyone wants is to know “which side you’re on” and then group you together with a set of assumptions.  To me, this kills the learning and understanding process.  So whenever somebody tells me their stance on an issue or a candidate, I make it a practice to always ask them a question in response.  Usually, I ask them, “why?”  And, “What makes you passionate about this issue?  Do you have a personal history or connection to it?”  It helps to humanize the person, rather than just “herding” them into a box.

So these are a few things I think about during election year in the U.S.  To me, politics isn’t as much about the candidates themselves, as it is about the people who vote for them.  Of course, the candidates matter.  But their message and image are shaped by the people who have the power to put them into office.  Whatever the candidates say, people will read into it what they really want and need.  We reveal our hearts, minds, hopes and fears through what we think and say about them.

Election season in the U.S. is a very anxious time, as the country searches for stability, new direction, and leadership.  But it can also be a very energizing season that reminds us all about what matters, and what we want to live and fight for — regardless of the outcome.  It’s a reminder that we do have voice and power, and that we should cherish that for ourselves, and respect it in others who are different.  And we can exercise leadership by not degrading those with whom we disagree… but by treating them with dignity.

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