I’ve had a long-standing rule that I don’t write about politics in this space. I’m not going to violate that tonight. Sometimes, though, politics intersect with culture. It’s the culture that I’m writing about, so don’t find that off-putting.
A week ago was Halloween. I’m honestly not a big fan of Halloween, but I am a big fan of cosplay, and it’s fun to watch our oldest daughter pick out her costume and get excited each year, so I’m at least tolerating it for the time being. Last week, Karen and I decided to divide the responsibilities. She took our daughter around the neighborhood, and I stayed at home to hand out candy to the other children. There were some excellent costumes (my favorites were a Nightmare-Before-Christmas guy and goth Raggedy Ann couple), but what struck me was how, in true New England fashion, everyone was so polite.
We ran out of candy early. I had to tell one group approaching the door that we were out just before I extinguished our porch light. They smiled and thanked us before moving on.
Everyone was happy. Everyone was getting along.
The election season of 2016 has taken something ugly and brought it to the surface. I don’t believe for a moment that this election created our hatred…it was festering well before the likes of Trump whipped it into a fever pitch. Unfortunately, it has brought it to the surface. Sure, we’ve seen the footage of violence at rallies from both sides, but there are more anecdotal experiences, as well. I’ve seen people stop speaking to each other. One of my dear, long-standing friends told me succinctly during a Twitter debate to leave America. I’ve heard fear about today, election day…fear of intimidation, fear of sabotage. I’ve had more than my share of tense family conversations.
Certainly, I’m watching the news with much trepidation as I write this. I arrived at my polling place early this morning, though, with even more trepidation.
What I found surprised me.
The people in line were joking and laughing. People holding signs were thanking others for coming out to vote. A police officer was present. He was greeting those in line, and assisting those with disabilities that prevented them from standing for an extended time (it was a long line) to the front. Police officers are always so much more respectful in New England than other places I’ve lived.
At first it was a release of tension, perhaps…I think nearly everyone is tired of the hatred that has been passed around liberally over the recent months. Ultimately, though, it was more than that. There was civility, regardless of which political direction was going through any of our minds. There was a sense that we were in this together.
Just like last week, when the entire neighborhood…and those from surrounding neighborhoods…were so polite and kind to each other. Perhaps moreso, as today there were no masks behind which to hide.
This gives me hope.
Because after all of the ill intent that has been spoken and acted leading up to today, there is something after. Whatever happens tonight as votes are tallied, there is a life beyond. And, when the dust settles and the cults of personality fade away…whichever way this election goes…we must all still live with each other. We must find a way to be colleagues, co-workers, neighbors, fellow church-goers, again. We must heal from the hate.
We’re all still citizens of the same country, but we’re also all human beings. There’s so much more that we have in common than divides us.
From this small experience this morning, I’m hopeful that we’re beginning to remember that. I need that hope.
We all do.