The election is behind us. Finally. Some of us may be happier than others about the outcome, but at least the election drama is over. Regardless of whether you had red eyes last Wednesday morning due to excessive sobbing or due to late night celebrations, I think that many of us are happy to finally be emerging from the haze of our respective political hangovers.
I have largely avoided sharing my political affiliations on this blog but if you’ve read this post or this post or this post, you can probably guess how I voted. What I found to be most frustrating during the recent election campaign might come as a surprise, however. It wasn’t the political mudslinging; sadly that has always been, and will always be, a part of politics (though some candidates seem to have stepped it up a notch). It wasn’t the intrusive political phone calls, the obnoxious Facebook posts, or even the relentless political ads.
What I found to be most exasperating was the obsession with labeling, categorizing, and pigeon-holing the complex and convoluted ideals of the American public. For the weeks and days leading up to the election, candidates, the media, pundits, and pollsters became obsessed with reducing the individuals who make up this wonderful country to one of two colors – red or blue – and then made further generalizations based on those two colors.
I understand that when it comes to the act of voting, we all must check a box and pick a side. But the tendency to label and categorize individuals based on two divergent classifications is demeaning and short-sighted. Moreover, the American public’s resignation to categorize ourselves and stereotype others is a convenient, self-fulfilling prophecy that exacerbates divisiveness and hinders progress.
The fact is we are not a country of Reds and Blues. We are a country of individuals representing a multitude of colorful beliefs – red, blue, crimson, navy, scarlet, indigo, magenta, and lavender. We are many shades of purple. A fiscal conservative may be enthusiastically in favor of marriage equality. A social liberal may support tax reductions and a balanced budget. We are complex individuals on a wide ranging spectrum. We are more than just a primary color on a newsroom whiteboard. We are not a political agenda. We are individuals. Multifaceted, sometimes contradictory, always complex individuals.
Because our political system is, for the most part, a two-party democracy, there comes a time when we all must make a choice. And there is nothing wrong with choosing, taking a stand, and supporting your cause. In fact, there are many causes that I will emphatically defend and support. But the trouble arises when we forget that we are more than a cause or a political party, and we entrench ourselves with “our side’s” agenda. We dig our heels in, bury our heads in the sand, and ignore the complexities of the situation. We fight so hard for what we are told we should believe or for what we believed in the past that we can forget to consider that our opinions and priorities might change based on our life circumstances.
Politics is not the only place that this happens. Religious institutions forget that they must evolve and continue to support outdated and inhumane social stances. Nonbelievers hold on to tyrannical associations with religion and assume that all faith is oppressive. Parents become convinced that their parenting strategies – whether regarding breastfeeding, discipline, sleep, or education – are the “right” ones. Couples overlook the fact that their partner had a different upbringing and may have different priorities. The list goes on and on and on.
I am continually saddened and frustrated by the inability of some people to think outside the box, so to speak. It is easier for some to come to their own conclusions, stereotypes, and categorizations about others – and themselves – than to really listen, consider, and evaluate the issue. Like I said here, individuals do not fall neatly into little boxes of preconceived definitions perpetuated for the ease of those who are too uncreative to imagine an alternate definition.
Like my good friend Lisa said here, “The time for sound bites is over for now. We need to move our conversations to a more productive and less condemning place. With a little bit of humility and the willingness to listen to another’s perspective, we might just have a chance to talk about solutions instead of blame.”
Now that the election pandemonium has abated for the time being, it is my sincere hope that we can unbury our heels, lift our heads out of the sand, and take the time to really listen to each other. That we can evaluate our positions so that we understand the real reasons that we are supporting those stances. That we can forget our personal agendas for a moment and think about the greater good. That we can empathize with our fellow Americans on the other side of the spectrum.
Many of the challenges we face as a nation are tough, and there are no easy answers. But the American public is more than just a map filled with red states and blue states. It is a nation filled with hard-working, smart, creative, resourceful, and determined individuals. Yes, we are a nation of reds and blues, but we are also many shades of purple.