In such a close election, no matter who wins, roughly half the country will be really, really disappointed. Even scared, anxious.
I expect emotions to be high. We may see anger, suspicion, and/or fear. I admit, there aren’t many chances for a scenerio in which I’d be ecstatic myself. But despite feelings I may have, I am writing down my code of ethics. People say if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. So I’m planning my response ahead of time. It’s just a beginning as to what I can do to help a divided country heal in the immediate time right after the election. The very beginning.
(And yes, if you read my rules for Facebook Etiquette (especially for election season), you will notice some of my points are the same. I think that maybe is part of the point. Even very unfavorable results shouldn’t change my code of right and wrong.)
My 10 rules for myself, post-election:
1. I will be careful what I say to my children, or around them regarding whoever wins and loses. Just as I did–sometimes with great difficulty and temptation–during the election. No lie, it was sometimes tough. But I want to teach my children to respect others, not because they have earned respect, but because how we treat others is a mark of our character, maturity and understanding.
2. No name-calling the future president of the United States, even if I’m not a fan of him or her. Even if I want to share disagreement, I can do so without name-calling.
3.No name-calling other people, for how they voted, or for their response to the results, etc.. Idiot, moron, etc., are off the table when talking to or about others. No matter how much I cannot see how they possibly believe a certain viewpoint. I don’t want to allow myself to estimate my opinion or rightness so highly that it permits me to denigrate another person and crush their being under my harsh words. And yes, there are a few issues I feel strongly about, things that are black and white moral imperatives–and still, I don’t see, based on my faith, where I have the right to insult people during political or other debate. (And yes, I’ve seen the popular meme floating around turning WWJD on its head, mentioning what Jesus said and did at the Temple when he threw out the money-changers. Jesus exhibits righteous anger and does judge men’s hearts with harsh words that cut right to their character. But there are many things Jesus does that does not fall in into my job description as a Christian; for instance, I also cannot grant forgiveness and send a criminal to Heaven, as Jesus did on the cross. Likewise, judging peoples’ hearts is not my job; I’ve not found any scripture telling me so.) My faith tradition gives me lots of directives as to my role: honoring others, loving them, encouraging them, restoring them gently. I am working on those. Matthew 5:22 gives very strong words for someone insulting or calling someone made in God’s image a “fool.”
4. If I approve of the winner, I will not gloat. A lot of others will be experiencing genuine panic, fear and hopelessness. I am called to think of others first and their concerns. I need to be sensitive to that. It’s also good sportsmanship.
5. I will not get stuck in blaming, holding grudges or disdaining fellow Americans. I don’t want to get caught in the trap of the blame game. That won’t help heal rifts in our nation. I don’t want to be ruled by emotions, least of all hatred.
6.I will not ridicule or judge others for their vote. (For a whole post on why and how it freed me to do this, read Does God Want All of His Followers to Cast the Same Vote Tuesday?) Another reason is that I want to assume the best in others rather than assuming they have lesser intelligence and reasoning ability than I do. It’s often a lack of our understanding the other person that accounts for our hasty judgement of someone for their opinion. Yes, there are right and wrong answers to things, but when it comes to complex societal issues, declaring someone stupid for not knowing or believing what we do can often be a reflection more on our heart than their intelligence/education.
Former President Harry Truman said, “When we understand the other fellow’s viewpoint… understand what he is trying to do… nine times out of ten he is trying to do right.” If we dealt with people by their intentions and honored that and thereby showed we actually listen and have a heart for them as a person, two things can happen. You will have more success in actual conversation; that person may actually hear you–and you may learn something from them. My aim is to respect and treat others according to the assumption of good intentions until proven otherwise.
7.Don’t use sarcasm or condescension with Facebook friends who state beliefs or views I do not share. (Sarcasm is ok for truly funny things that aren’t about heavy subjects such as beliefs, religion or politics. Sarcasm is not insulting only when used among friends when you already know are on the same page and share viewpoints or you know each other’s hearts/intentions.)
8.Don’t post vulgar or distasteful images or words in order to prove that something/someone is vulgar or distasteful.
9. No snide remarks or memes that are vulgar, nasty and cutting, even if they reveal an idea or belief I agree with. Nope.–no matter how perfectly delicious it seems for retaliation against an idea I don’t like, and I’m angry. Because I don’t want to be like that. Speak life. If I cannot speak life about that topic, then let’s find someone who is doing something worthy on that topic and illuminate that. There are enough people pointing out the bad; that job, if it needs to be done, is already being done.
10. If disappointed, I will remember the God I serve. Because I am a person of faith, I will not lose hope because of the results of an election–because His kingdom is the goal of my life on Earth, and no president was never meant to be my savior. If the Apostles could believe as they wrote to the Early Church, that God ordained rulers, then as hard as the implications can be, it’s something to take seriously, coming from the source it does. We’re talking about people who lived through Roman occupation that crucified Jesus and subjugated God’s nation of Israel. Peter and Paul were not flinging around platitudes; they did not tell Jesus followers to respect leadership because they were of the benefitting ruling class or found it easy. They lived in a time of persecution and those afterward experienced even more. But their conviction that God was working through it all did not waver. No matter who gets into the White House, I beleive in a God of miracles who has a plan for redemption that will not have changed. And meanwhile, we help by loving others.
11. Pray for unity of Americans. My concern, now that we know the outcome, is for the people who feel genuine fear and anger, as well as people enthusiastcally elated. I pray for compassion to rule all so we can be neighbors and community to each other, despite divisions that seemed really pronounced last night. United we stand, divided we fall.