I’ve had so many thoughts and emotions over the past week. It makes me wish I was more connected and still in the habit of writing poetry. My mind can barely wrap itself around everything that has happened. When I’m really honest, I ask myself, so what if my candidate was elected? There are still causes for concern. There are still reasons to hope. And isn’t that always the case regardless of who is in office? I think it is, but what do I know?
It’s not so much the outcomes that have encouraged me, it is the dialogue that I’ve had the privilege to engage in since the election with people from all over the political spectrum. Why couldn’t we all be this calm and reasoned before the election? Some of the best exchanges I have had about the issues have occurred in the last three days. Perhaps it is because before winning was at stake, and darn it, we want to win. And while I will readily admit that my immediate emotions on election night were visceral and came from a “win” mentality, something more sobering, more substantive, and ultimately more valuable and hopeful has taken its place.
It isn’t so much that the candidate that I voted for has been elected that has my mind stirring and my heart thumping. Regardless of how this man governs (and I don’t mean to minimize that because it is important), I am more moved by the major shift of our nation’s political sensibility. There’s more to it than just a promise of “change.” There’s more to it than moving rhetoric. Before the election even started, polls indicated that the Americans had finally had enough of negative campaigning and had finally stopped allowing themselves to be manipulated by fear-mongering in order to illicit a knee-jerk, reactive vote. Americans finally said, “Enough. You’re gonna have to do better than that.” And I am so very happy for it.
Now here’s the really important point that we absolutely cannot fail to make to ourselves: We’re gonna have to do better than that, too. Much has been made of the economically pinched middle class and the struggling Main Streets across America. No doubt about that. But we do have to take a long, hard look at ourselves and the way we conduct our lives and ask ourselves what we’re willing to do bring about the change we all hope for. Democrats often criticize the notion of “trickle down” wealth. But as a nation, we should not expect such a thing as “trickle down” change, either. We can’t look to our government and expect them to make life easier for us without some real, significant changes on our part.
I know this hits closer to home for some people than it does for me. Some people have been forced to make extremely difficult choices and had to change under trying circumstances. And so I want to acknowledge that I don’t have a relative fighting in a war right now. No one in my family or circle of friends has lost their job because of the economy. I’m not close enough to retirement to merit alarm at Wall Street’s dive. Did our retirement take a hit? Absolutely! But we’re far enough away that there is time to recover. Have rising food and gas prices effected our family budget. Of course! We certainly have felt a financial squeeze. But, we’re settled in a home that we can live in for a very long time, and we won’t be needing any major purchases for quite a while. We have been very blessed, and I realize that. And so, I think it is right that I expect more of myself… to expect myself to really work for that which I hoped for when i cast my vote.
And now is a good time to do this. I don’t mean to sound preachy, so I’ll just give you some insight into what I’ve figured out this week as I took stock about what my vote meant, and what the outcome meant, and contemplated how we can really harness that which we are hoping for, and ease the fears and anxieties of those who wanted for a different outcome. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I love this idea. It’s actually on a poster in my classroom. But outside of my job and my friendships, this idea is an idle notion in my life. My daughters have never seen me volunteer in any meaningful way to benefit strangers less fortunate than us. Fiscally, I have not been as good of a steward as I should be. We don’t recycle. I have failed to instill the concept of merit and working for something rather than it being given. They simply do not see me give of myself very often.
It is very hard to put this out there for the world to read, even if “the world” is about 15 people. I feel naked. But I think if we just can grab hold of this momentum, if we seize this wonderful opportunity to contribute something to this new volume of history that is being written as I sit here where I am and write and you sit where you are and read, if we simply ask ourselves the question: what can I do to help bring about the change that America is begging for? I think if we will do that, the change we all hope for will come regardless of who is sits in our highest office.
And so, as Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”