An Election year Letter to the Person on the other side of the Aisle.

Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

“I have decided to stick with love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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It’s Super Tuesday — the biggest day of the primary season, eight months until the US Presidential election — and We the People are poised and ready to jump into the ring. 

The doors to election season are about to fling wide open, and a fresh torrent of opinions, beliefs, and ideals will soon flood from the open veins of the body politic. 

From the cracks in the republic on which we stand already oozes the sticky sly half-truthed propaganda of corporate media, the gurgling pundits, the rhetoric of marketeers and political machinists, the dull yawn of the status quo, and the ephemeral quicksand of social media algorithms. 

An earthquake of fundamentalist positions on both sides has rattled our ability to see each other as human beings. Our country’s citizenry, split wide open at the chest, stands cocked and loaded and ready to fire against its own heart. 

Our nation is bleeding from division, and it is heartbreak to witness.

Come Tuesday and beyond, candidates will square up for the fight on opposite sides of the ring. We voters will face off behind them, team red and team blue, rabid for the chance to win — or better yet, the chance to make the other guy lose. We’ll delight in throwing mud on the candidates in protest of their mudslinging. We’ll judge them for judging, hate them for hating. 

Then if we’re not careful, we’ll knock them all down, jump the ropes, and punch each other in the face. 

Noses bruised, we’ll call out those standing on the other side of the political aisle as our enemies, as evil, as inherently bad, wrong, stupid, inept. They will call us out as the same. Opposing sides will collide in a perfect storm of idealistic passion, All-American competition, and reptilian fear. 

When the fight is over and we survey the bleeding, we may stop and wonder whatever was the source of the original wound.

So. 

Before the storm hits, I’m gathering my supplies. I’m gathering my wits about me. I’m digging my roots into the place I want to be standing when it’s all over. Regardless of who wins.

Where do I want to be? Standing in love. 

Of course, I want to be standing in my conviction that what I believe is right and good. I want to be standing on my principles. I want to be standing on the arc of the moral universe that “bends toward justice,” as MLK would say. I believe there are certain actions that are inexcusable. I believe there are other actions that must be taken to preserve our communities, our health, and all the wild and beautiful life forms that share our ailing planet. I believe there’s a future I want to play a part in creating, and a future I don’t. 

But what I believe, more than any of this, is that if I hate the person who disagrees with me, I have already lost.

That’s why my vote this year will be for refusing to hate. 

We citizens are victimized in many ways by our corrupt political machine and it’s bought-and-paid-for elections. We’re victimized by a two-party system that pits us against one another and limits our ability to choose from our hearts. We’re victimized by divisive rhetoric that manipulates our perceptions and foments discord within our families, our towns, our states, our nation. 

I won’t be a victim to this. I won’t be a victim of right and left or right and wrong politics. There is a difference between an ideology and a real person, and I will not be tricked into conflating the two. If my heart’s politics are based on respect and dignity (and they are), I refuse to sacrifice the dignity of the person next to me, even one who disagrees with me, in favor of a generic battle cry of “dignity for all.”  

There are plenty of things to disagree about. But whatever we think about the relevance of borders or walls or homeland security, we all already live within the borders of the same mother country. Our fortunes rise and fall as a whole, within a shared unfolding future. Our security — and our destinies — are bound together. 

Maybe that’s why our “left vs. right” disagreements are so potent. Gas and fire mean nothing to one another when they’re on opposite sides of the ring, never to touch. But instead, we’re all so close, so intimately connected, that the burn of conflict encircles us, flames brushing against our cheeks. Instead of stepping back to cool off, in our fear we charge the center ring with our gas cans and torches, ready to set each other afire. 

Do we really all want to burn together? Is being right, or winning the oval office, really worth burning down the house? Is our hate for one another’s beliefs and actions really worth destroying our common home?

For me, the answer is no.

I realize that if I want to live in a country of inclusion, that means I have to include everyone, including those I disagree with. 

So this election season I’m going to do the best thing I can do, if I want to live in a future world of peace and dignity for all. I’m going to set down my gas can.

As individuals, beyond casting our votes and voicing our hearts, we cannot control who wins the nomination — or the presidency. However, we can control how we respond, regardless of who wins. We can choose to be divisive or inclusive, kind or cruel. As individuals making up a whole, we have the power to build the country we want to live in, one person at a time. 

Therefore, whether or not I agree with your politics, I will not be disrespectful to you. I refuse to blame, hate, or divide myself from you. If my candidate wins, I will not rub it in your face. If my candidate loses, I will not blame you or insult you for it. 

We may be divided politically in this country, but one thing we have in common is that our divided country is tearing us all apart. No progress can be made, no healing can happen, in the boxing ring where the roar of the crowd is so deafening that we can’t even hear each other speak. 

So my hope, in this fiery moment of transition, is that if I see you on the other side of the aisle from me, I will be brave enough to lean across to you and say hello.

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This article originally appeared on Elephant Journal at this link.

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