Finding the Election Connection
How to Keep Your Friends and Family through Election Day
“Wow, isn’t this the most intellectually invigorating presidential election?? I am so inspired by all of the tremendous ideas the candidates have for making the world a better place. I love how my friends and family are engaged and respecting each other’s opinions as we all work together for the common good.”
Said no one this election season – ever!
Why this election is different than any other is a subject we could debate all day. I like to think that as a community of country, we are in an important place of reassessing our values and vision for the world we want. It’s a critical negotiation, and deserves the kind of serious and thoughtful debate that our election system was once designed to stimulate.
But instead, we are at odds, with our neighbors and with our families, as we navigate some of the most button-pressing issues of our time. Part of this is the way candidates campaign, trying to stir up strong emotion using all means possible to get you to vote with your emotion on Election Day. Part of it is the media, trying to balance everything to the extremes of conflict - there is always a “side” and you are inherently asked to pick one – no gray areas allowed. And part of it is our confusion about a changing world and our place in it, our feeling overwhelmed by the world’s problems, and our inherent need for the relief of these feelings in the form of a strong leader who can figure it out for us, and make the world okay.
It is a very interesting recipe that unfortunately seems to be dividing, rather than connecting us.
Who is the family member you are avoiding until Election Day is over? Who have you un-friended on social media because of their political leanings? Are you whispering at lunch with your friends because you might offend someone at the table behind you? Have you found yourself cleaning up garbage on your front lawn because someone didn’t like the candidate election sign you posted?
There are probably very few of us who can say that this election season has only brought us closer to the people we love and care about.
Election Day will come and go. And at this rate, it will leave us a more divided community than ever before. But there are steps we can take to assure that it is a positive and connecting force in the remaining days of the campaign. Here are some ideas:
Talk only about the positive change you want to see in the world. This is the Big Magic. Make this the standing rule for how you discuss politics, post about the election on social media, or make your voting decisions. 90% of what we hear is what we don’t want to see, the bad things that MIGHT happen if we vote for someone. That’s on purpose because anger drives people to the polls. Don’t vote in anger. Vote with the love you want to see for and in the world. Activate all of the energy and intention that go with a positive vision. Talk about this vision with your friends and family and an amazing thing might happen – you may find that you agree more than you realize!
Keep your feelings in check. That angry passion that feels righteous? Well, it’s not. Anger and hate are toxic. Period. There is no justification. And it is a tool for propaganda, the most powerful tool in the toolbox. So when you watch or read the news, notice how you feel about things that are said in election reporting. If that rage comes creeping up, then you know you were just hooked, like a fish on the line. Notice that feeling, and switch it up. Stay positive. “But…” you might say, “How can I ignore what this candidate is doing or saying that might be terrible?” You don’t have to ignore it, you just have to put it in its place. (It may not even be true, it’s hard to tell these days.) Be objective and keep asking yourself, “What will they do to support the things I care about?” Make that question your bottom line.
Change the way you talk about politics. Some people choose not to talk about politics with friends and family at all, and that’s ok too – as long as you are still talking! If your family, like mine, values vigorous debate about current issues, set some ground rules for respect – write them down if needed so you can gently remind each other when passions take hold. Instead of talking about where candidates stand on issues, talk about what you would do if you were President. This keeps the conversation neutral, and reminds us that we all have a role to play in the future.
Get involved locally. Take a break from the national politics scene and get involved in local elections in your community. That’s where some of the biggest change happens anyway, and you can have a big impact. In fact, your time and talents are desperately needed in this space. In this process, you will be connecting with your friends and neighbors to learn more about their daily challenges. It will change your perspective, and change you at depth. You can stump for a local candidate, help register voters, or volunteer to work at the polls. This involvement might even lead you to run for local office one day! Armchair politics won’t change the world, but getting engaged in our community certainly will.
Learn more about yourself. We already know what we agree with and why. But learning why we disagree with others can give us a window into those unresolved aspects of ourselves that need time, attention, and prayer. When we dislike something in a candidate, it is likely a mirror to something we dislike in ourselves. (You’ll dismiss this idea at first, but you need to really, really, think about it. – it’s there!) We can also try to better understand why our egos are so easily unleashed when politics come in to play – what are we afraid of? Why do we feel threatened? How can we better trust in the love and care of God and the universe? Get a journal if you don’t have one – there’s a lot of rich material here! As you work through these issues, you’ll see things change, and find it easier to connect with friends and family no matter what their opinion may be.
Make this your goal – to enter the voting booth this November with joy, and a clear picture of the world you want to see as a result of this collective expression with your brothers and sisters of the world. And exit the booth with strong connections to friends, family and community that you have nurtured in these remaining weeks. Only you can control whether or not the election will connect you or divide you from those you love. It’s not too late for a different result. Vote for connection.