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Monday, December 17 , 2018, 4:34 am | Overcast 55º


Letter to the Editor: A Collective Responsibility To Move Forward As One Nation, and Here’s How

No matter which side of the election you were on, clearly, half a country was not happy with status quo. Half a country is now very unhappy with the outcome. As with Brexit, when a country is only working for half the people, it’s not working. When that half exercises their democratic right to change the country’s course, we must respect that.

We cherish democracy because it embodies the best possible delivery system of governing of the people, by the people, for the people. But democracy is also messy as a process. Making your vote count doesn’t always result in victory. Our system isn’t perfect, but it’s the best we collectively knew how to build. This is the outcome of the most fractious and vitriolic contest we’ve ever seen.

To the victors: congratulations. However, caution in proceeding is warranted. As the popular vote stands right now, slightly more than half of this country did not vote for the incoming president. Though the Electoral College process has declared Trump the winner, protests are breaking out and derision across social media is rampant. However you want to frame it, the reality is we’re still deeply divided as a nation.

Asking for caution is an acknowledgement of a psychological trap set by previous victors. Election night euphoria is incredibly intoxicating, after all. ‘We won! Everything is going to change!’ While it may feel like it’s open season to finally get one’s way, and one could certainly feel that with a newly elected one-party government in play, assuming carte blanche would be an error. Past victors have taken bare simple majority wins and used them as a mandate to impose too much of their agenda on a losing minority consisting of basically half the country. Opposition constellates, which then amass enough to eke out their own bare simple majority win, impose their will, create a new backlash... and so on. This is how our nation stays divided.

We must therefore find a way forward as one country. How?

A lot of listening and respectful conversations now need to occur. Warning – here there be dragons, but the precious gold of insight is also on offer for the intrepid soul. We must be strong enough in ourselves to withstand inflammatory rhetoric to get at the heart of a problem. Be ready to learn something you might not have known before. Stand in peace, and listen deeply without reacting impetuously, for surely we are about to face each other over the policy table, as well as the Thanksgiving table.

Please, victors, model the noblest qualities of the great leaders you hope you just elected. Take this opportunity to turn to those worried about the future, and realize they have valid concerns. You too were likely fearful going into this election. Wouldn’t it have meant something to you to have someone from ‘the other side’ respond to you with care and concern, rather than scorn and derision? It is only by inviting others across the aisle to join you that you discover where you can build enough bridges to hold this republic together.

For those unhappy about the election outcome, give yourself time and space to grieve. Then put your grief aside, and recognize that people you love and respect voted differently. Herein lies a tremendous opportunity. You now have the chance to be part of bringing some new greatness forward. Find a way to sit at the table with the victors, and collaborate. It could unleash huge potentials for progress and advancement you’ve never before contemplated.

Let everyone come from a respectful place, and ask clarifying questions when we don’t understand what the other person is saying. Offer to work together, even if you don’t know how that’s possible yet. If you were not respectful, reach out now and make amends. Find the places where you can agree, and go from there.

Peace is a journey, not a destination. We all love this country and want the best for it and our citizens. It is wholly up to us as to how things proceed. To heal our nation, we must hold fast to our humanity, prioritize peace in our hearts over giving in to our emotions, and build bridges between us that will hold no matter which way political winds blow.

Barbara Gaughen-Muller and Sharon Byrne
United Nations Association of Santa Barbara and the Tri Counties Region

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