We play politics with great intensity; we fight hard, and take the outcome to heart. The issues may be ambiguous and complicated, but elections are not. They end with somebody winning and somebody losing. The world is changed, with a jolt. In polarized times like ours, important elections leave people who did not see the outcome they had hoped for, filled with negative emotion: frustration, anxiety, alienation, and sadness. The strategic thinkers will soon be dusting themselves off and preparing for the next battle; but until then, what do the rest of us do to cope?
Other than adult beverages, I mean.
For a while, those who feel sad about the election outcome are likely to need the comfort of people who share their vision. If the electorate did not appreciate or understand your viewpoint, at least your friends do. Take care: politics is all about power; depression and powerlessness are old traveling companions. The world feels alien, when the day goes to political candidates or viewpoints we really, really object to. It is helpful to our own healing, when politics seem to have gone awry, to be extra mindful of our strengths. This is a time for quiet reflection and celebrating what is good in your worldview, no matter how popular it is on a certain Tuesday in November, and allow it to percolate. Remember how quickly things change. A painful loss is made bearable by making something meaningful come from it: let the season of preparation begin, not to avenge the loss, but because your heart tells you that the world will be better for what you bring. What you bring may change. The winners may change. Wish them well, despite themselves. Survive this loss with your generosity of spirit intact. Not to mention your sense of humor.
Other people seem incomprehensible at moments like this. Political adversaries have been harsh, and most of their rhetoric did not make the world better. In the course of a long and bitter campaign season, the winning side has, it is said, disrespected the opposition, and misrepresented its views, hoping to make themselves more appealing. If this had happened in a family, there would be consequences. The campaign slogans may be gone now, but the aftermath doesn’t feel much like peace. The belief that somebody is willing to misrepresent us, or overlook us, in the course of an election, leaves wounds. When trust has been shredded, why should anyone go first in making amends, or even listening? It’s an eternal standoff, and the gracious winners have the best opportunity to do the right thing. Listening to one’s faithful adversary makes us all better. Now, with the season’s elections decided, we must awaken and remember that like it or not, we are interdependent beings, with a common fate. Repair of community is in our common interest, but of less political interest to the winners. Politics never goes away, but it just one lens through which we see ourselves. We pay a huge price for giving all our attention to those who profit from exaggerating our differences, and overlooking what we share. What now? Sometimes it seems like the community as a whole, needs therapy.
We really are all in this boat together. Yikes.