Political Contrast Can Do Irreparable Harm

Our lives are full of contrast

The contrast between you and I may be interesting, if not significant. Perhaps we have different habits of worship, or we favor different sports teams, or we like different music. Contrast often makes life interesting. We learn from each other by comparing our life stories and experiences. Contrast can be good.

As I sit here writing this in Oregon, where some 10% of the state’s residents have either evacuated or put on notice to do so by wildfires, the air outside is yellow and thick with smoke. The fires are coming close. We are on a Level One alert wherein we are told to, “Get Ready.” Next will be Level Two where the advisory says, “Get Set.” Finally, when the flames come near, it will be Level Three. We’ll be told to simply, “Go!” The contrast from just hours ago is remarkable.

091420 Contrast

The fires are a new reality, a new normal, that has come upon us because of the climate change the world endures. The nation’s West Coast burns. Hurricanes slam the East Coast and tornadoes dance more fervently across middle America. The new reality is a contrast from yesteryears when we slept safe in our beds at night. We are now very much awake.

The nation is built on contrast

Ibram X. Kendi’s article in The Atlantic, Is This the Beginning of the End of American Racism?Points to a nation of contrast:

The united states has often been called a land of contradictions, and to be sure, its failings sit alongside some notable achievements—a New Deal for many Americans in the 1930s, the defeat of fascism abroad in the 1940s. But on racial matters, the U.S. could just as accurately be described as a land in denial. It has been a massacring nation that said it cherished life, a slaveholding nation that claimed it valued liberty, a hierarchal nation that declared it valued equality, a disenfranchising nation that branded itself a democracy, a segregated nation that styled itself separate but equal, an excluding nation that boasted of opportunity for all. A nation is what it does, not what it originally claimed it would be. Often, a nation is precisely what it denies itself to be.

Mr. Kendi points out that the contrast of our national experience runs deep. We want one thing – see one thing – while denying another. We can be idealistic and press for a reality that isn’t really there, but we want it to be. We believe, so it must be so.

The upcoming election contrasts with previous elections

In seven weeks, we will have voted (you will, won’t you?). This election, however, is a contrast to previous elections. In previous elections, you and I cast our ballots knowing that we may not have voted for the same presidential candidate. We voted according to our conscience and realized that other opinions will weigh in too. We sometimes won when our ballot mattered and sometimes lost when it didn’t. Then we witnessed a peaceful transfer of power on Inauguration Day. We could be disappointed but life went on.

This time, how we vote is different. Not because of who we vote for but because our vote will insult someone else. I have friends and relatives whom I know will not vote as I do. My vote will insult them. Their vote will insult me. The political divide, the contrast, that reaches beyond idealism may harm us – our relationships. Some will be angry. Some will be perplexed. But the divide will harden. The contrast could cause us harm.

We must remember a few basics: that uncle who doesn’t vote like you, will still be your uncle. Your friend, too, and your cousin and your neighbor will still be who they are today. What will you do with the contrast that separates you?

We must be willing to listen, if we are to heal

I have many concerns about the upcoming election. I’m opinionated about it, just as I’m sure you are (you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t care). But the truth is that America will still be here. Just as Oregon will be here when the fires have been put out and the smoke has cleared. Tomorrow will come. Will your feelings heal and will you be willing to listen, really listen, to those who do not vote like you? Will you be willing to protect each other? Care for each other? Stand up for each other? Will you respect their vote even if you disagree?

We can harm each other if we’re stubborn and unwilling to listen, to make peace. I firmly believe that our nation thrives best when both the Republican and Democratic parties are healthy and functioning. Today, they both suffer. In the upcoming post-election era, the political contrast will need to soften, melt even. Healing cannot happen otherwise.

I keep pressing for the need for Equal Voice Voting (EVV) because it includes so many voting voices that are currently silenced. It expands the vote by tens of millions of ballots rather than suppressing them. To succeed with EVV, we must allow the voting voice of others to be heard, to be represented in the Electoral College. It’s a voting posture that recognizes that winning is NOT everything. Fair representation is. Good governance is.

My friend: Vote! Do so early if you vote by mail. Then let’s listen to each other. It will be a good contrast to what we may be doing today.

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By Jerry Spriggs and the Equal Voice Voting Team

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