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Monday
Nov052018

How We Respond Tuesday Will Tell Others Who We Are

There’s a decision each of us needs to make that’s as important as any selection we make on our ballots. That is how we will respond to the outcome of the Nov. 6 election.

It’s unlikely that any of us will see exactly the results we hope for in every race, or that anyone will see defeat on every front. But, no matter the outcome, there will be winners and losers; there will be celebration and disappointment. How we respond — as individuals and as a nation — will set the tone for us as we move ahead. In a very real sense, our collective response will either fortify or weaken our democracy.

Are we able to accept loss and move on to pursue unity as a nation? Accepting loss doesn’t mean capitulating on our values or beliefs, or discontinuing resistance and peaceful protest. It means taking loss with grace and civility and committing to seek common ground as we continue to advocate for our positions and beliefs.

Equally important, if we end up in the winning column, can we be gracious in victory? Can we resist the impulse to gloat or smirk, or embarrass the opposition? Can we put ourselves in the place of people experiencing loss and try to imagine how their pain feels even if we can’t empathize with their political positions? If we humiliate them with insults and our own insufferable and righteous condescension, they will resent and despise us. There’s no healing in that.

We need to be brutally honest with ourselves. Who do we want to be and what sort of country do we want to live in? And are we willing to restrain our own behavior and act in accordance with our best values rather than our initial impulses?

We have to ask ourselves now, before we know the outcome of the election: Do we want a united country? Are we still capable of coming together to productively and positively address the complex issues that have divided us?

Under these very difficult and painful circumstances, can we stand up for civility, respect and kindness? And for the principles our nation was founded on? This must be a grass-roots effort, because we’ve seen that many of our elected officials lack the will or desire to bring us together.

We also have to recognize that there are some people who want to foment discord and further divide us. They will deliberately fling taunts and sow conflict. Not everyone wants to promote or model civility. Our job is to not fuel them by giving them our attention or engaging at their level. Whether we share or abhor their political positions, our message must be: “Henceforth, the rules have changed. If you cannot speak and act with respect, honesty and civility, you will not be welcome in my home, my workspace or on my screens.”

Let us never forget that our children will be watching and learning from how adults respond — whether to victory or to defeat. The behaviors we model will determine what sort of children we raise. That responsibility is one we must take very seriously.

How others respond on Nov. 6 will tell us who they are. How we respond will tell others who we are. Let’s get this right.

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