We are better than this.
Too often, the vehicle that is our country’s driving force towards democracy — our elections — is the very same one that stalls us against one another.
It is the cornerstone of what makes us a free and sovereign nation, and yet, can also showcase the very worst in all of us.
While it’s far from uncommon for an election that determines a nation’s highest leader to become a bitter, partisan affair, this year, it’s sunk to new levels.
And it’s brought us to a place where we should never be.
We used to respect one another. We didn’t always agree, but we were at least willing to listen, understand each other’s viewpoint and attempt to find a common ground.
It’s the fundamental principle our nation was built on. Compromise.
We rose from oppression. We were ruled by a monarchy that didn’t give us a say. So we designed our government in a way that allows us to keep each other in check. Did it slow the legislative process? Yes. But it was supposed to. And it forced lawmakers and people of all ideologies to sit down at the table together to find a solution.
Somewhere along the way, we lost that. And it’s been happening for decades. But rather then confront the problem, we’ve turned a blind eye and pretended it wasn’t there.
Now we are dealing with the consequences of our own willful ignorance.
The rampant xenophobia, sexism and racism that has entered mainstream political discourse like never before has given the entire a world a glimpse into what our country has become. Our problems and shortcomings have been put under a spotlight. And there is no where to hide.
Rather than working to solve these issues, too many people are seizing the opportunity to blame and decry those who they believe are responsible for this mess.
As a result, it’s created a toxic political atmosphere and made us more divisive than ever.
We once cared about setting an example for the world. But instead we’ve become an ominous warning of what can happen when we put ourselves ahead of each other. When we let fear dominate over hope. When we disregard ideas simply because they’re not how we want them to be.
This election season has been painful to digest. It’s agonizing to see people who harbored decades-old contempt suddenly feel emboldened to make their hate known.
As much as I’ve tried for the past year to shrug it off as an aberration that will normalize itself after Election Day, I’ve finally come to the realization that we cannot.
We must confront this. And it’s with this dispirited sense of acceptance that I have hope.
Because on November 9, we have the unique opportunity to shape where we go from here. We can continue the division along two separate paths, or we can come together and stand united like we have so many times before.
This is within our capabilities.
It won’t be easy. But if we strive to do it, then we can.
I will place my vote on Election Day. And whatever happens happens.
But I will control the one thing that is within my power: to be the best version of me that I possibly can. And to care and respect the people that I see every day.
Are you with me?