Democracy provides everyone with a voice
We certainly had a lot to talk about around our Thanksgiving tables. There was the usual joy that comes with the reunion of families and friends as well as gratitude for the harvest’s bounty. But this year, we as a nation are still musing over the recent elections. To continue these discussions is a good thing, although not always a pleasant experience.
The atmosphere in our country is a swirl of mixed thoughts and emotions. Every form of media is offering its advice as to how to adjust to the outcomes of the election. Our eyes have been opened to the divisiveness throughout our nation. Voices, including ‘Saturday Night Live’ and the current president of the United States, have laid out the need to calm the waters and seek positive actions.
One simple but difficult place for each of us to start is just to enter into the conversation about conditions and issues that bombard our lives. Yes; do the often unthinkable: discuss religion and politics in public. We need to figure out how to talk with each other about situations that have both good and bad sides. That means no yelling and demeaning to defend our convictions. It takes a bold and confident person to view in an objective manner a controversial issue.
I recently read a letter to the editor in The Indianapolis Star newspaper that lays out, in clear terms, a path of thinking and doing in our exchanges with others. Bravo and thanks to Sarah Burnham for sharing her thoughts with us as she writes: ‘I am dismayed by the number of news stories, pundit remarks, Facebook posts and sentiments of people saying, ‘Now what do I tell my children?’ regarding the recent election. What do we tell our children? We tell them this is what democracy looks like. We tell them we might not agree with the outcome, but we have the right to elect our leaders peacefully and without prejudice or coercion, unlike so many in the world, and we are honored to be part of it. We tell them that if we do not agree with our elected leaders, we are allowed and able to voice our opinion and promote change. We tell them what humility in victory and grace in defeat look like and start by guiding them to the post-election speeches of the presidential candidates. We tell them neither candidate was perfect ‘ as no candidate is ‘ but these are the people we chose to run for office. They weren’t forced upon us; the American people chose them. We tell them everything that has happened in this election ‘ both good and bad, happy and sad ‘ has been because we live in a democracy, where each person has a voice. We tell them we respect a Constitution which gives us freedom like no other country in the world. What should we tell our children? We tell them we are honored, humbled and grateful to be an American, no matter what our political views. We tell them that by respecting this process, this is what a democracy looks like.’
As President Obama traveled to his last international meetings, he uttered the same thoughts as Sarah Burnham of Carmel. He spoke of changes in transitioning into a new government and the need to work together but to be aware of the various policies and issues that are under discussion. He cautioned against a rise in a form of tribalism or nationalism built around an ‘us and them’ mentality. He emphasized that we must focus on what we have in common and not what divides us.
I think it is significant that this cantankerous election has used the social-media vehicle Facebook as such a force of communication. It has mobilized thousands of protesters within hours to take to the streets. And, although it was established as a place to make friends, we now find people are ‘unfriending’ those who cast opposing votes. How do we have honest and grown-up conversations in this new, expanding and often impersonal world of ours? President Obama has cautioned us, saying, ‘If we are not serious about the facts and what is true and what is not, if we cannot discriminate between serious debate and propaganda, we are in trouble’ as a nation.
The holidays loom ahead of us now. Most spiritually-based religious groups recognize this time as an opportunity to rejoice in life and prepare for a new beginning. Such moments offer us the chance to become aware and be filled with admiration and gratitude for what we consider divine. People may call God by different names, and our celebrations have different words and observances. We often become confused and disturbed by such differences. But central for me is that we are all aware there is a greater power than man that enters our lives. Our response to God comes from the common nature of mankind itself.
Let each of us enter this holy season with a prayer in our hearts and love in our words as we, one nation, chart our new course for the future.