A Brief Sigh of Relief

This past week has not been easy. I told myself I would stay away from the media after election day. However, I couldn’t not look at it. I’d refresh my browser hoping the numbers would update to see them still firmly stuck where they were at “too close to call.” Finally, yesterday the race was called for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Democracy worked its magic and the people made their voices heard. More people voted in the 2020 election than in the past 120 years – over 144 million ballots were cast (including my daughter’s, who has denied ever saying she wasn’t going to vote)! No wonder it’s taking so long to count them all. I feel good knowing I did my part in getting others to participate in our democracy – as that is truly one of the things that make America, America.

Waiting for the results to be tallied is stressful, especially if the election is something you care about. I never considered myself to be a political person until after the 2016 election. I didn’t expect the third-party candidate I voted for to come out on top, but I was still disheartened in the end result. How did this happen? I asked myself. Why did so many Americans vote for a man so filled with hate, animosity and egotism? I hoped that who was president wouldn’t really make a difference in my life. I wanted to give the president the benefit of the doubt. May be it wouldn’t be as bad I thought it would be. Unfortunately, it was and more so. Did my life change because of who was president? It did. My levels of empathy increased, I became more dutiful in researching the issues and vetting fake news. I looked inward. I became more political, vocal in speaking my truth and advocating for others.

After every contentious election there is a call to unity — giving the new president-elect a chance at governing and remembering we are all Americans. Encouraging unity sounds cliché. There is a lot of work ahead of us to heal our divided nation. There were 70 million people who supported President Trump even after seeing how he governed using fear, false-hoods and his own self-interests. After the 2016 election, I felt able to face others who I knew supported his rhetoric and policies as they didn’t actually know how his leadership style would shape the nation. In 2020, however, my community was still lined with signs supporting a toxic platform and facing others who continued to support him seems much more difficult. Do I want to lose friendships and family over politics? No. Is it better to pretend to not know? Is there a way forward? Is unity even a possibility?

I think it is. I am hopeful now that America has voted for new leadership (our first woman VP, wow!) that they will continue encouraging our nation to heal instead of picking open a festering scab and pouring alcohol on it. Maybe we need to see the hidden infections that laid dormant in order to bring it to the light and make us healthy again. That time is now. I know those people that voted for and supported the president are disappointed that he was not re-elected. Some of his supporters are angry and feel cheated. From the beginning of his candidacy and throughout his re-election campaign he threw doubt to journalistic integrity and the validity of our election system. It’s easier to place blame on a supposed faulty election process, that to admit the majority of Americans do not support him. He won’t concede, which makes it more difficult for others to do so too. However, remember those same ballots elected conservative senators, house representatives as well as state and local leadership.

Our government is built on a system of checks and balances. Conservatives control the Supreme Court. Liberals will now control the White House. Neither the Senate nor the House of Representatives is overwhelmingly conservative or liberal. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Now, we just need to hold our elected officials accountable so that they work together. Our system is far from perfect, but our country has come a long way from our roots and will continue to grow.

And so, I breathe a small sigh of relief, but know the work is just beginning.