Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A lesson in perspective...and hope.

Hopefully.  It is the morning after the mind-blowing, staggeringly shocking results of the November 2016 election.  The candidate that I, and all of the people that I knew personally and peripherally, voted for, did not win.  Ordinarily this would be one of those situations where we'd all simply shrug our shoulders and say, "Well, someone has to win and someone has to lose, we're moving on."  But in this case, the people in my beloved homeland, the United States of America, had become angrily divisive and issues like blatant racism, sexism, and prejudice had reared their tremendously ugly heads and permeated our collective consciousness.

The person spearheading these assumed conquered ideas of discrimination and intolerance was the one who took the electoral votes (but not the popular vote, which I think is worth mentioning).  The wake the following morning is one of fear, anger, disappointment, and sadness.  The party who lost is being encouraged to have hope for the future, but right now all we can see is the hope we had, and clung to happily, fatally crushed in one moment by our objectors. It can make people want to give up on hoping for what we dream of, and give up on hope altogether.

Time heals all wounds - this I know is true.  But until we have that gift of time to do its work what can we do so we don't lose that precious, gracious, beautiful, uplifted-ness that hope provides?

Well the first thing I think we need to do is to administer ourselves a nice healthy dose of perspective.  On a personal front - are our loved ones still alive, healthy, and happy?  Are we ourselves still feeling good and able to do what we like: walk, talk, breathe, see the sun rise, etc.?  Do we still have a roof over our heads and food to eat? Are we being actively persecuted for any reason?

If all of the answers to these are "yes," (except for the last one which is hopefully "no,") then we shouldn't get mired down in the stress and worry about what did happen and/or what could possibly happen.

Secondly, when trying to gain perspective about what will happen to our country, our world, the Earth, politics as we know it, etc. I think we need to remember these fundamental truths:

1. We are still living in the United States of America, which is run by a democracy, where women can vote, where we are not forced to live according to the whims of a mentally unstable dictator. People of all races and religions still have the right to practice and worship as they please without fear of being imprisoned or killed.  The U.S. still has a strong economy and although it's not always easy to get the job you're dreaming of, there are attainable jobs out there and health insurance exists for the vast majority of us.

2. This is one election in a stream of many.  Many of the presidents who came before this one contributed little to the betterment of the country.  Some have started wars, some have joined into wars already happening, some have caused the stock market to tank, and some have been assassinated before they could do all of the good they wanted to. We don't know what's going to happen with this president but we do know that there's not much he can do, for better or for worse, over the span of 4 short years while the system of governmental checks and balances is still in place.

3. This outcome is not like 9/11, nor it is anywhere even close to Hitler.  (people are comparing this win to both of those)  Thousands of innocent civilians did not die from a surprise attack from evil, ardent zealots.  Millions of people were not tortured, humiliated, tortured some more, and then executed simply because they were born.  True, this person has made some racist and prejudicial remarks, which are disgusting and not to be excused.  But it is not possible, in this day and age, for one person to attempt to wipe out an entire race because the world is very different now than it was in 1938.  Maybe I'm wrong about that, but that's what I see both in America and across the world.  There's much less tolerance for hate and bigotry. (It's there, but it seems that fewer people are jumping on that particular bandwagon.)

4. People are afraid because they weren't aware of how much racism still exists in our country.  While this can be a scary thing, I'm choosing to look at learning this reality as a good thing.  Isn't it good to know how our neighbors actually think so we can have proper knowledge of them before we let them into our homes and our lives?  Isn't it a good thing that this dark part of our country has been brought out into the light so it can be dealt with (again) and hopefully have it be eradicated forever? You can't conquer something if you don't know it's even there.

5. Our country is only 238 years old.  Compared to other countries and especially compared to the Earth itself, that is infantile. We are bound to make mistakes and have some ups and downs as we figure out how to become a strong and resilient country overall.  We've had amazing growth and innovation in those 200+ years and the next 4 will no doubt be ones of rebuilding and setbacks as they all are.  But we need to remember that as a country we are still young and learning and aspiring to continue to be a truly great nation.

All of us have faced disappointments before and what have we done? We've picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, hopefully learned the lesson, and moved on with our lives; usually stronger and wiser as a result of the disappointment.  Some disappointments take longer to heal from than others - that's fine - see "time heals all wounds" above.  But here's what's really important:

Us getting upset/nauseated/worried sick about what has happened or what's going to happen does not and will not make any difference as to what is going to actually happen. It doesn't do anything except make us sick and ruin our own happiness.  And while yes, it's fine and usually healthy to grieve and mourn for something we've lost, continuing to sit in that grief and let it drown you doesn't do anything except make you miserable and lose out on moments of potential happiness in your life.  Being sad and wanting to throw up all day will not change the outcome of the election.  Nor will it bring back the love you lost, nor save the business that failed, nor turn back time so your best friend doesn't actually betray you.  These horrible things happen, but it's up to each of us as to how we choose to handle them.  

No matter what happens from here on out, we cannot lose hope.  In the words of someone who knows a thing or two about defeat: "We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope."  -Martin Luther King, Jr.  We have to keep hoping, keep fighting, and keep our eyes on the good things that can and WILL happen next.  The past cannot be changed.  We can dwell on that, or we can be grateful for the blessings of the present, and look forward to the gift of the future.

This could end up being a great thing for our country or a catastrophic thing for our country - we don't know.  But what we do know is that it is up to each one of us to create the best, most optimistic, healthiest, most expectant, and hopeful life that we can for ourselves every single day.  No matter what the election results say, no matter what personal disappointments and struggles we face, and especially no matter what may or may not happen tomorrow.

God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

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