A letter to my kids about the election
Hey there, sweet children of mine.
You’ve been following the news with us throughout this whole campaign cycle. We’ve had approximately eight million and six discussions with you about candidates and policies and character and compassion. You’ve heard us try to understand lots of different perspectives, because we know that voting is always—almost always—complicated.
You’ve heard us talk about power, and about using power for the good of all. You’ve heard us say that no candidate is perfect, and hardly any policy is, either. You know that we try to vote for plans that protect the littlest, the lost, and the least in any group.
(You know we do that because we’re trying to follow in the ways of that one Jesus guy we talk about all the time, but there are lots of good reasons to vote to protect people on the edges of our society.) Who’s being left out? Who’s not being protected? Who’s being hurt?
That’s where we want to turn.
You’ve heard us talk until there were no more words, and you’ve given us your perspectives, too, thank goodness.
I’m tempted to just be quiet for awhile, because we have talked and talked and listened and listened, over the dinner table, in friends’ backyards, across the aisles at church. I’m tempted to stop. I’m tempted to not write down a single other word.
But your dad just looked at me and said, Not saying anything is still saying something, so here we are. I will try to keep it brief.
I know that in this election, there were contests that went the way you hoped they would, and others that didn’t.
(We voted on 17 state measures, plus local offices and state ones and then, of course, the presidency. There was no way that everything was going to swing the way we voted, and that’s part of the process.)
I know you are cheering for some of the candidates who won their races, and others you are not thrilled about, let’s say. I know. I feel the same way.
The first thing I want you to remember is that politics is not like baseball.
Politics is not a team sport.
Politics is our process for creating our shared life together in this country. Politics is how we decide what rules are best for everyone to follow. Politics is how we choose who we trust to make decisions that are best for everyone.
Politics is not about winners and losers. It’s not about roadblocks and red tape, either.
The purpose of politics is to figure out the best ways to move our country forward toward what we always meant to be—a “more perfect union,” a place of “domestic tranquility” (that means peace for our citizens), a place that “provides for the common defense” (that means everyone is protected), a place that “promotes the general welfare” (that means everyone is taken care of, or at least not harmed), a place where we are all free to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness with equality.
To be clear, we’ve never been that country yet. But that’s the goal, to move closer.
To become a MORE perfect union.
A good politician is one who loves their country and wants to see it become that more perfect union. A good politician is someone who wants to serve all the people, and who listens well to learn how to do that. That’s what politics is about. (We don’t all agree on the “how” part. That’s why we vote.)
When you hear people talking about how WE WON or YOU LOST or OUR TEAM IS BETTER THAN YOUR TEAM, I want you to remember: there are no teams.
We are not better than them. They are not better than us. There is no us-and-them. We are them. They are us. We’re all the same.
Our IDEAS are not all the same. But we’re all daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, friends and neighbors. We all love and need love.
Lots of people—no matter who they voted for—are asking questions right now that sound like: What were they thinking?
And that is a good question.
That is a REALLY good question.
If you need to ask what someone was thinking, that means you weren’t listening. That means you’ve noticed you weren’t listening.
But we don’t ask it in a scornful voice. We don’t say, “What were they THINKING?”
We ask it sincerely, because we want to know. We’re ready to listen, and we want to understand. “What were you thinking? Why did you do that? Why are you choosing this?”
If someone is asking YOU, please listen to the still, small voice inside you before you answer.
If you’re hearing whispers that someone else needs to hurt for you to heal: that is not your best self talking. That is not the voice of truth, and that is not the voice of love. (They’re the same, the voices of truth and love. You can’t actually have one without the other.)
Keep listening. See if you’re listening to fear, or hurt, or anger. Those are true feelings, but they’re not the feelings that we let govern us.
We feel our pain, but we don’t stay in it, and we don’t try to push our pain onto others. We learn what we can from it. We build something new out of the ashes of what did not work. We do not act from the place of fear and pain. We want to act beyond our fear and pain.
So what do we do now, now that this election is over?
We want to stand with the hurting, but there are hurting people on both sides of this election. Some people voted from a place of pain and fear and anger. Some people are afraid and in pain and angry after seeing the results. (Some are both.)
And in some ways it feels like there isn’t much we can do about that. We aren’t in charge, and the people who are in charge don’t always seem to remember that their job is to work toward what’s best for everyone.
But we can stand together in our communities, like we did today. We went to church today and cried, and talked about solutions for problems, and prayed for our leaders, that they would make choices from a place of service, not self.
We can support our elected officials when they work on policies that will help people, or that move us toward becoming a more perfect union.
We can speak up when our elected officials have ideas that would hurt people.
We can make sure they hear that, because their job is to help and not to hurt. We even speak up to the candidates we voted for, the ones that felt like our best choice at the time.
The thing we must never do, must never allow, is to let one group’s hurt to be fixed by hurting another group. That means we have to LISTEN to the people who are hurting and afraid.
We pay attention to our friends who identify as LGBTQ+. We stand with our neighbors who are Muslim or Jewish or who have other faiths, or no faith. We listen to our sisters and brothers with brown skin and black skin. We listen to people who live in cities, and those who live in the country. We ask how to help our neighbors who do not have enough work or food or money or shelter.
We watch carefully to see that our country’s policies come from a place of respect—
Respect for all those people, and for women, for children, for people who have no homes, for people with different abilities, for people who need education, for people far from home. These things are not negotiable. (Again, because of following that Jesus. It’s his fault that we’re always trying to figure out how to love our neighbors just like we love ourselves.)
No matter who we voted for, now we work for the good of all the people. Not for the good of one team. There are no teams. All the people.
We do not throw one group under the bus to help another group. We do not “protect” ourselves by hurting others. There is no love in that. There is no strength in that. That is not a solution.
Real solutions take more creativity to find.
They require more flexibility and compromise. We all have to give a little to take care of everybody. (That’s the GENERAL WELFARE thing the Constitution was talking about up there in those quotes.)
But we can do that. We can be brave, and we can be kind, and we can do hard things like compromise and be strong-but-flexible.
That’s what we’re going to do. That’s who we’re going to be.
That’s what I want you to remember.
I love and adore you. I am so lucky that I get to see you become the best, bravest, kindest, most compassionate versions of yourselves as you grow (and even as you vote one day).
P.S. You might be thinking right now that I wasn’t brief after all. But I promise, this could have gone on much, much longer. And it will. That’s what the breakfast table is for.