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Post-Election Weekend Game Plan Options for Everyone

Post-Election Weekend Game Plan Options for Everyone

You survived the week! YAY YOU.

Whatever shape you’re in right now, take a minute to congratulate yourself. This was a tough week. Lord have mercy, let’s figure out how to do democracy better by the midterm elections, shall we?

I, for one, have emotional whiplash from all the hurt and pain I’m seeing. (And feeling, because I’m not a robot.) I’d planned to write more about listening and healing our nation this week but we’re not there yet as a nation. So what I’m offering up instead is your game plan for the weekend. No cute graphics, no tweetable quotes, just find yourself on the list below and use the steps as a starting place. If you change “categories,” that’s fine. Just check in with your new game plan and use it instead.

You’re mad as hell and aren’t going to take it. This is a good action position heading into the weekend but your challenge is going to be slowing down. Here’s your action plan:

1.       Sleep. Staying up all night stewing won’t accomplish anything.

2.       Find something concrete to do this weekend. If you can find a group that’s meeting to plan next steps, join them. If not, make a list of your friends, family and contacts. Who on that list might feel vulnerable right now? Ask them, “Are you ok?” Then listen. Do not attempt to get them involved in planning right now. They aren’t ready, you’ll both be frustrated and you’ll burn out because you’ll feel like no one cares. They do, they just can’t care this way yet.

3.       Make a donation to a group that does the work you’re worried about getting done. I donate to the ACLU, my local LGBTQ outreach and a low income health care organization.

You’re sick, sad and haven’t stopped crying.

1.       Sleep. On Tuesday night, as I watched the election results, I texted my husband in disbelief. “I can’t even understand what’s happening.” He gave me the best advice ever. “Make some Sleepytime, read some fiction, go to sleep and figure it out in the morning.” (Well, almost. He actually said, “take a sleeping pill, wash it down with a glass of wine, read some fiction and figure it out in the morning.” But that advice was time limited. It’s not a good long term plan.)

2.       Shower.

3.       Take a walk. If you can’t be outside because you don’t want to see anyone, do yoga. I recommend Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube.

4.       Look at your calendar for the week and ask yourself, “What is the bare minimum I need to do to be ready for the week?” Do that much and no more. The rest of the time is yours.

You’re afraid.

1.       Assess the risk. Are you physically safe right now? If not, get somewhere public and assess next steps.

2.       Call two allies. These are people you think you can trust. They may be friends, a local safe house or a church. If you don’t have one, message me. When you call, say this, “I’m really scared. If I need anything, can I call you?”

3.       Sleep.

4.        Make a safety plan.

You voted for someone other than Donald Trump and you think everyone is over reacting.

1.       Check in with someone who is struggling. Say this, “I know this is hard for you. I’m so sorry. If you want to talk about it, I will listen.”

2.       Listen. Do not say, “it will be ok,” “the sun will come up,” or “God has this in control.” Say this, “I’m so sorry.” “This is not ok.” “I will stand with you.” “What can I do to help you get through the next few days?”

You voted for Donald Trump and you don’t understand what all the fuss is about and/or your feelings are hurt because everyone keeps calling you a bad voter/American/Christian.

1.       Take a deep breath.

2.       Call a friend who is struggling. Say, “I know this is hard for you. I’m so sorry. If you want to talk about it, I will listen.”

3.       Listen. Do not say one single thing. Nope. Not one. You are in the position of power here because you won. You’re happy. That’s awesome. But the loser doesn’t have to comfort the winner. This is how we help each other: the people with the most emotional strength help the people with the least emotional strength. Right now, you’re in group A, even if it’s not fair that people are mislabeling you. I know, it sucks. I’ve been there. Next week, you can talk with them about it. Not now.

4.       If you’re really up for it, ask what you can do to help. If not, that’s ok. Offer a hug and listen if they say no. (Again with the over-reaction, I know you’re thinking that. But one of the issues on the table here is how we treat each other’s bodies, so some people are in need of a safe, loving hug and others want to huddle down. That’s ok.)

Love and light, friends.

The Secret to Healing America

The Secret to Healing America

I’m not a politically vocal person, at least not outside the safety of my own home. During this election season, my husband has listened to daily commentary about the state of the campaigns but outside of a couple friends who share my political views, I don’t talk politics. I am, quite frankly, afraid of the potential conflict.  

Related: 5 Powerful Phrases for An Election Year

I’m probably right to be worried. A 2014 Pew Study found that Republicans and Democrats were more divided than previously. More troubling, they found that an increasing number of people viewed people from the other party as threats to the nation’s well being. As of that study, 27% of Democrats and 36% of Republicans saw the other party as threats. This is well beyond not agreeing with each other and into outright animosity, suspicion and fear.  Given the state of this presidential election, it’s clear that this trend has continued over the past two years.

Lucky for me, my neighbors have largely taken the same approach to avoiding this election. No one is sporting any presidential signs or bumper stickers for me to smile or glare at each day as I head home. A few “likes” on Facebook hint at our political affiliations but it’s not enough to spark resentment.  Even my family has enacted a tacit no-politics rule (except, of course, for the various alliances among us who agree on things).

This seems like the wisest course of action in a country of people that are positioned for battle. When Facebook posts can ruin real-life friendships and Twitter wars erupt at the slightest provocation, fight or flight appears to be our only options.  

I’m beginning to realize, though, that the non-interference approach to politics isn’t really healing the wounds of our nation. The fight or flight response to political conversation is anti-democratic. We need a better way. Click To Tweet

The avoidance approach to politics creates a façade of agreement. Taken to its logical end, it promotes the view that disagreement has no place in our relationships. We can all be friends, as long as we don’t address anything troubling, disagreeable or meaningful. We can all be family as long as we pretend to vote the same way. We can all be a church as long as we act like we’re all the same. 

As Parker Palmer says in his book Healing the Heart of Democracy, “I will not ask us to dial down our differences. Democracy gives us the right to disagree and is designed to use the energy of creative conflict to drive positive social change. Partisianship is not a problem. Demonizing the other is.” 

palmer-quote-democracy

If this fight or flight response isn’t democracy in action, then it’s certainly not Christianity in action. Our very best values, the values of our government and the values of our faith affirm that people of all beliefs can love, learn from and respect one another. And this means that at a time like this, a time that’s laden with suspicion, fear and even hate we must hear each other into speech. 

I believe this: we cannot truly love our neighbor without listening to our neighbor.  We cannot truly love our neighbor without listening to our neighbor. Even when we disagree. Click To Tweet

That’s why the act of listening itself is the key to healing. We’re not all going to agree, not ever. But we can agree to hear each other. And in hearing, we can agree that we are all human, worthy of the basic human dignity of being recognized for the unique perspectives and gifts we bring to the world. 

We’re here, with only a few days left until the presidential election. Thank God almighty, because I know so many of us cannot take any more. But while the political ads might end on November 8, the real work of healing will begin November 9. And for that, we’re going to need to put on our listening ears. We’re going to need to ask others to tell their stories and share their dreams. To respond to their anger and hurt with curiousity and love rather than defensiveness. To disagree and then still smile when we pass each other on the street, or over the backyard fence, or across the table. 

This all seems so simple, this idea of listening to one another to bring greater unity. But we’ve tried out-yelling each other and that didn’t work. We’ve tried name-calling and that didn’t work. We’ve tried avoiding all “hard topics” and that didn’t work. Actually listening to each other is the only option left.  (I’ve said something similar before: Meeting Real Pain with Real Love: On Same Sex Marriage and the Way of Christ.)

Thich Naht Hahn says this about the importance of listening to each other in times of conflict: 

The other person has wrong perceptions about himself and about us. And we have wrong perceptions about ourselves and the other person. And that is the foundation for violence and conflict and war…Both sides are motivated by fear, by anger, and by wrong perception. But wrong perceptions cannot be removed by guns and bombs. They should be removed by deep listening, compassionate listening, and loving space.

This will be hard, no doubt. Not just because listening is inherently hard but because we’re trying to shift an entire culture. Most of us need to unlearn everything we’ve learned about political rhetoric. And then we’ll need to invite others along on the journey. Somehow, we’re going to have to figure out how to have conversation again—even when we don’t agree. After the election, we're going to have to figure out how to have conversation again. Click To Tweet

But I do believe that the time is right for this.

I believe that people are crying out for it, desperate to create a place where diversity is valued.

This is where we can find courage for our healing movement: once we get started, with just a few of us here and there taking the time to reach across political aisles, it will snowball and grow, becoming an avalanche of world-changers. All just hearing each other.

5 Powerful Phrases for an Election Year

5 Powerful Phrases for an Election Year

I used to love this picture:

optical illusion election

I loved how I my eyes would slightly glaze over as I switched back and forth between seeing the old lady and young woman. I would give myself a headache looking at that picture.

“It’s a young woman!”
“No, it’s an old lady!”

The answer, of course, was that it’s both. This is so obvious, it seems silly to say.  But that was the miracle of the illusion—some amazing artist had created a picture in which two contradictory things could be true at the same time.

Now imagine that camps formed around the different viewpoints. “It’s an old woman!” “It’s a young woman!” The argument might become more and more heated, each side gradually losing its ability to see the other’s point of view. Insults would be hurled, families would sit in “pro-old” and “pro-young” areas at Thanksgiving, friendships would struggle to bridge the divide.

We’re living in a moment in which these kinds of arguments rage on. We could name them, right? It takes two seconds to march right down the list of party platforms and see the places where we are fighting over “either/or” when the obvious answer is “both/and.”

This rhetoric has grown especially tense around the topic of race. Last night, a friend shared a hateful video rant against the Black Lives Matter movement. (Disclaimer: it wasn’t his.) You don’t need to watch it—just imagine the worst. As crass and violent as this video is, it’s gaining attention because people are rightfully upset about the deaths of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

For some reason, we seem to be asking the question, “Do black lives matter or do police lives matter?

The answer, of course, is that it’s both. This is so obvious, it seems silly to say.

I’m not saying anything that you haven’t thought already. My friends have been saying this for weeks now. In fact, I think most people know this.

My point isn’t to astonish you with some new truth but to encourage you to stay situated there. Unfortunately, this is going to get worse before it gets better. Election years don’t lend themselves to careful public dialog and this year is a particular kind of mess, with issues of race, gender and safety at forefront.

Those of us who are able to see the picture from both angles have an important, if frustrating, job to do. Keep pointing others to the both/and. I don’t mean that we have to become wishy-washy. The last thing the world needs right now is people who sit on the fence, leaning toward one side or the other depending on which way the wind is blowing. No, the world need bridges. It needs people who are willing to chime in with passion and clarity but still see the goodness in the folks on the other side.

The world needs people willing to listen for love instead of for hate.The world needs people willing to listen for love instead of for hate. Click To Tweet

Living in this gray area will actually be harder than fighting for any one position. It will mean learning a new vocabulary and then using it. It may mean calling out those who benefit by promoting a language of hate, or gently guiding those who have lost their ability to look from another angle. It will mean saying things like:

Do we really have to choose?
Can it be both?
I see it two ways.
I think this is a false dichotomy.
I think that’s true and I think this is true, too.

In case you think this is too simplistic, I’d remind you that culture change happens from the inside out. Every social shift has started small. The good news is this one already has momentum. We just have to keep it rolling.