This morning, as I walked out of my local polling place, a very old woman in a wheelchair, who was being pushed out the door ahead of me, said to the group waiting in line: “Thank you for coming and making your voice known . . . no matter how you voted.”
And then she giggled a little bit.
I loved that! Her comment made me feel a spark of joy after what was probably the most contentious election cycle I’ve ever seen.
(I live in Illinois, after all.)
You see, there are some things I wish right now.
I wish people could take the disgusting, inflammatory rhetoric down a notch.
I wish kids were taught how to think critically.
I wish politicians would appeal to our virtue rather than our vanity.
And I wish parents would teach their children that there’s a better way to handle politics than simply taking sides, calling names, slinging mud.
Because, as trite as it sounds, our children ARE our future. They are the ones watching to see how disagreements are handled. They are the ones who will be making decisions about our future someday. They are the ones we expect to handle these things better than we did.
But how will they know how to behave if we don’t show them?
What if we changed the narrative and showed our kids a better way? What if we taught our kids a few things about democracy and voting and winning and losing? What if we modeled valor and virtue, holding those things in esteem instead of winning at all costs?
What if we tried saying this . . .
If you voted differently from me today:
I don’t hate you.
I don’t think you’re out to ruin our country.
I don’t think you’re racist or homophobic or greedy or misogynistic.
I actually think you come at our problems differently than I do.
I also think that if I voted for a different candidate than you did, that doesn’t make me worthy of your hatred, disgust, or slander.
We just see different ways through whatever mire we’re stuck in right now.
I hope beyond hope that our kids and grandkids can learn to put aside the vitriol (“cruel and bitter criticism” - it’s an apt phrase, right?) and learn to simply accept that some people think differently about the issues than they do. And maybe, just maybe, the next generation will be able to reach across the aisle and get something done.