Here we are, the day before the election in perhaps the most contentious campaign season in our history. I already voted. I have outlined the reasons I am supporting Hillary Clinton for president in surprisingly civil conversations with Donald Trump supporters, and I have listened to their reasons for voting for Trump. And now I’m looking ahead to tomorrow—and beyond—wondering what direction our country’s voters will take us.
Also today, I’m traveling for work. I’ll be taking three planes to get me to rural Minnesota, where I’m visiting a Native American reservation and a renewable energy nonprofit. I’ll be sitting next to strangers—our elbows awkwardly bumping each other in the too-small seats, our eyes meeting in commiseration as the airline announces a delay. For a few hours, I’ll share space with strangers who believe we’re stronger together or want to make America great again, with those who are still feeing the Bern or are sitting this election out completely.
Sometimes it feels like we’re all so different.
But beyond trolls’ hateful comments and tweets, beyond the violence that erupts at rallies, beyond people unfriending each other over political posts, we are much the same.
We all want a better future
A few days before the election, a friend posted to Facebook: “I genuinely want to be enlightened & have some of her supporters share what I must be missing. For the many friends that I have that are “with her,” How has she earned your support?”
This wasn’t the first time she posted this plea, and she seemed genuine in wanting to understand someone else’s point of view.
I took a deep breath and dove in.
After I explained why I support Hillary Clinton, she took the time to respond—without malice or attacks.
In my head, I answered each of her points with a counterargument. I wanted to link to articles and statistics and data and experts.
But then I checked myself.
I read more closely. And I realized that ultimately, we both wanted the same thing: a better country for ourselves, our families and our country.
We just had different ideas of the direction we want to go and how to best get there.
Empathizing with the other side
I still have a hard time reconciling Donald Trump’s actions with the image his supporters rally behind. But I’m so grateful to my friend for asking for my point of view—and listening.
More importantly, I’m grateful to her for pushing me to realize how little I had been listening.
I am a writer; listening is my job. But during the 2016 election, I have gotten more and more afraid of what the future will bring after November 8.
And fear shuts down our ability to empathize, understand and act on compassion.
So I listened only enough to argue (even if it was in my head, or to other people who think like me). That’s not real listening.
Finding peace in the day before the election
I’m still very afraid of what happens after the election. I’m afraid not only for the repercussions of the election—on health care, the Supreme Court, on women’s rights and more—but also what will happen to us citizens.
Will we continue to define ourselves by whom we voted for? Will we sneer at or even attack those whose bumper stickers don’t agree with ours? Will we continue to tear each other down and tear this nation apart?
I hope not.
Today, the day before the election, I am making an effort to be less fearful.
Spread some peace
Many of us have already cast our ballots; most of us have already made up our mind on how to vote. So I won’t be trying to change anyone’s mind.
Instead, I can spread a little bit of peace.
I can lift a stranger’s carry-on into the overhead bin. I can chat with my seat mate and find out what she’s passionate about. I can look the flight attendant in the eye and thank him.
So the day before the election, what can you do to spread some peace?
If you’re feeling depressed or fearful or anxious or angry, I understand. I feel those things too. Try doing something nice for someone else.
Still don’t feel like it? Try watching this video. My two girls teamed up on me the other night, covering me in spit and kisses and raspberries and so much messy love that I could barely hold myself together because I felt I would explode with happy-beautiful-in-the-moment laughter.
Hang in there, everyone. We’ll survive the day before the election, November 8, and everything that’s to come.