When I woke up this past Tuesday, I had a knot in my stomach. For weeks it had seemed as though Election Day was always just out of sight, but suddenly I was awake in its hours, knowing my country would be different before I went to bed.
I brushed my teeth, ate breakfast, and read through my ballot book again, ensuring I was ready to vote later that afternoon, then I got in my car and went to work, just like any other day.
In the weeks leading up to Election Day, I’d seen celebrities and social media personalities alike sharing their voice and reminding everyone how important it was to vote. This is one thing I’ve always admired about election season, for even amongst all the phone calls and mail and lengthy commercials that come with the arrival of that second Tuesday in November, so to do we get an influx of reminders: Reminders that we have the right to vote. Reminders that we all need to stand together. Reminders that we can all be different. Reminders that we are all free to share our voices and that they will be heard.
On Tuesday night, as I sat in my favorite chair, staring at the television screen that glowed red, I again found that knot in my stomach, though it was farther removed from the results than one might think. I nodded my head, walked up the stairs to my room and fell asleep, anxious for what my world would be like in the morning. And when I woke up, it was even more disappointing than I could have imagined.
Venom. That’s the only word I can think of to describe what I saw and heard. Venom in the words spit by person after person and venom injected into those they were aimed at. And while I understood the disappointment, the fear, the hurt, I couldn’t fathom how any of this was helping.
These attacks aimed from American to American, brother to sister, what were they doing to heal the wounds of those who felt wounded? What good had it been to encourage people to vote, if persecution awaited them if that vote wasn’t “correct”? And how, after months of marrying the words of someone who has now become the new President with hate and malice and disgust, how did we seek to redeem those words by using them ourselves on one another?
When the results came through, I saw a lot of people claim our country was divided, now more than ever. And while I think the cracks in our unity shine through during every election season, as tensions are high and opinions are loud, it is not the results that are doing the dividing, it is what we are doing with them. Have we forgotten that we are not the opinions of one man or woman? We have never been the product of the actions of one single person. We have always been and always will be a collection of voices, actions, and opinions that make up one great nation. But if we continue let the fear of the presence of hate nourish the growth of it inside each of us, we risk uniting under the single thing that can destroy us.
So as we take our first few steps in the wake of these results, let us not forget that we are not strangers that need to walk silently and stiffly in avoidance of those who are different than us. For it is our differences that make us strong. It is our differences that make us great. And it is in times like these that we need those differences in order to find balance and unity, compromise and compassion. So no matter who you voted for, take time to find encouragement in the words from both parties, as they both have come forward to ignite hope and offer support, both for one another and our country as a whole, and we would do well to follow their example. For America is already great, but it can be greater. We are strong, but we are stronger together. And if we can find a way to unite, we can do anything.
From Senator Hillary Clinton:
“I still believe in America and I always will….And — and to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”
From President-Elect Donald Trump:
“Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division…To all Republicans and Democrats and Independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.”
And from President Barack Obama:
“We’re not Democrats first, we’re not Republicans first. We’re Americans first. We’re patriots first.”