Contributor: Madelyn D.
The U.S. presidential election is over, and now we find ourselves reflecting on the process our nation has endured this year. It can be tempting to form judgments about people whose political views are different from ours. Whether our candidate won or lost, we may be feeling disillusioned about our fellow Americans after this contentious ordeal.
I was born and raised in a kind of political bubble, surrounded by people who mostly agreed on a set of accepted views. Then I moved away from my hometown, and I found myself in a place that was culturally different from what I’d known. Eventually, I married a man whose family believed– and voted– in ways that were polar opposites to my own choices.
Yet, my in-laws have accepted, loved, and supported me for two decades. They welcomed me into the family with open arms, even though I am so different from them. Religiously, politically, and personally, it would seem we have nothing in common. But if I were to focus only on these differences, I would miss the deeper similarities we share.
My in-laws and I share an important set of core values. When I look deeply into their reasons for voting and believing as they do, I see these values operating. They care about protecting their families and innocent children. They care about the safety and freedom of our country. They want to see economic prosperity for Americans, and they hope to live in a kinder world. They believe in charity and lending help to those around them.
I may not agree that their voting choices will support the values we share. I have my own opinions about what policies would best serve our common goals. Still, I have respect for the people I’ve come to love so well.
Amid all the name-calling and shaming, it can be nearly impossible to have a productive conversation between people with different views. My relatives are not racists or misogynists, and they are deeply offended when people apply those ugly labels. How can they hear anyone’s opinions when they’re being belittled that way? How can any of us keep an open mind, when we’re being judged and attacked?
If I spend my energy judging others, I create suffering for myself. I choose to focus, instead, on the common values most of us share, deep down. We all want to be free, happy, safe, and prosperous. If we remember this truth, we can disagree respectfully and hear each other more clearly, We can use our power and our voices to make things better.
Because I’ve learned from loving people who think so differently, I choose to trust in the basic goodness of my neighbor. I believe that’s the way forward for all of us.