If Your Candidate Loses on Tuesday…

The end is near. Barring an electoral college rarity, on Tuesday there will be a new person elected to the office of President of the United States of America. Some will be elated. Some will be despondent. Some aren’t going to be happy if either front runner wins.

In fact, no matter who comes out ahead there will be a large portion of this country who will be disappointed, scared, or even angry. Up to half of those who vote (and technically even a little over half) will later find out their nominee was rejected by the nation.

Losing is not fun. Not in a foot race, not in Monopoly, and certainly not in something as important as a general election. It stings, it hurts. Some of the issues we are facing are quite contentious. Some of the decisions that will be made by the next president may impact us negatively. Losing carries not just pain, but a lot of potential anxiety as well.

So, what do we do if our candidate loses? I’m glad you asked. I have three suggestions.

We can start with acting like level-headed adults.

Sometimes my children don’t get what they want. Sometimes when they don’t get what they want they cross their arms and push out their bottom lip. They acquire a high-pitched moan in their voice. They pout.

But all the foot stomping and whining doesn’t change the fact that in our house we don’t eat Kit-Kats for breakfast (at least when the children are present). Pouting changes little to nothing, sometimes even making the situation worse. Fortunately, children are cute so we can usually smile at their little tantrums.

You and I are adults. And we aren’t all that cute. So if your preferred candidate isn’t elected, please don’t pout. Don’t whine. Don’t stomp your feet and declare “no one loves me.”

Maybe pouting isn’t your thing. Perhaps your response to losing is less like my children and more like George Brett. You charge the umpire, throw whatever you can grab, scream your head off, and must be restrained by multiple people.

Again, this response does not help anything. Reacting in anger may garner you some back slaps from like-minded people but it won’t make anyone change their mind on how they voted. It will just make you look like a sore loser and further convince people you’ve lost your mind.

Don’t lose influence or respect because you respond to losing like a child or lunatic. Take a breath. Count to 10. Bite your tongue. If you can’t do that, have a friend change your Facebook password for a week. Pick up yoga. Relax.

Which leads me to my next suggestion for the losing side: Take a step back.

Remember how talking heads told us Obama was the certain death of our nation? We survived. Some of us are better off, some of us are not, but we are still here.

We’ve survived Republicans and Democrats and we will again. Your preferred person not being elected is not the end of the world as we know it. (If this is the apocalypse I’ll buy you a shirt that says “Don’t blame me.”)

We need perspective. This is a four-year term. If we get it wrong, we can try again soon. People will be campaigning for 2020 by May.

We have these great checks and balances that help ensure electing a bad candidate won’t dissolve the republic. We can impeach, challenge, veto, block vetoes, and vote again in the years to come. We can go before courts to contest laws. We can elect a new Congress. We have a system strong enough to survive 44 flawed presidents thus far; I’m confident we can handle one more.

I understand you probably have some major concerns about what might happen if your candidate isn’t elected. I just want to remind you to take a step back and look at the whole picture.

Finally, let’s be good to each other.break-glass

This election has moved us further and further to the extremes. The venom and propaganda has reached a fever pitch. Let’s move away from that. Let’s move toward each other. Or at least let’s move forward together.

We won’t ever all agree, but we can do better. Imagine if we could disagree with each other with a modicum of respect and civility. Imagine if we didn’t call everyone who votes differently names. Imagine if we didn’t assume that the other side wants to ruin our lives. You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not only one.

Let’s not assume the worst of the other half of the country. They are your neighbors, your friends, your fellow worshipers, your co-workers, your kids, maybe even your spouses. Are some of them misguided? Yep. Are some motivated by the wrong things? Probably. But let’s not put any more barriers between us. Let’s come together, lets share meals, lets learn from each other. Let’s be kind in our social media posts, let’s be careful with our words to the people we encounter, and let’s be considerate even in the way we think about the folks that disagree with us.

This is hard work. It doesn’t come naturally to many of us. Just because its difficult or unnatural doesn’t mean it’s not worth our time and effort. Just because everyone else around us has adopted hateful rhetoric or a doom and gloom outlook doesn’t mean we must do likewise.

After George W. Bush defeated Al Gore and the hanging chads had been recounted, I saw a shirt with his picture that read, “Not My President.” It bothered me then and it bothers me now. We have one country, diverse as she may be. Whoever wins will be the president of all of us: those who vote Trump or Clinton, those who vote Johnson and Stein and McMullin and Castle and even those who write in Jesus or Mickey Mouse.

We are in this together. You and I. Republicans and Democrats and Independents and the Amish. So if your side loses please act your age. Remember this is probably not the end of America and try to always be good to each other.

We might lose an election but maybe we can regain some decency. Maybe we can win at the stuff that matters the most. I think we can do it. I’m committed to try. I hope you’ll join me.

And if your candidate happens to win, please celebrate graciously. That is important too.

When We Disagree.

disagree

Photo Source: conferencecalling.com

One of the blessings and/or curses of social media is that everyone has a voice. You get a voice, I get a voice, your crazy uncle gets a voice. And since everyone has a voice, somewhere on the internet somebody is wrong right this second. They are going to vote for the wrong candidate or they don’t value your religious convictions or they think the Dallas Cowboys are a team worth supporting.

The chorus of voices is diverse and our opinions are many and yet it seems to me that we have lost the ability to disagree well. We insult and antagonize. We jump to conclusions and fight straw men. We even go ALL CAPS when feeling particularly saucy.

Every issue is now politicized and our ability to find common ground is stunted. We make enemies out of people who hold differing views or experiences. We dehumanize ourselves and others simply because we disagree. And amazingly, despite all the venom we spew and seemingly conclusive facts we vomit, we change not a single opinion.

We can (and should) debate and be passionate, but we need do it with decency and mutual respect. We don’t have to hate each other just because we don’t agree. We don’t have to make it our personal mission to correct or rebuke every wrong person we encounter.

It is time we recover some civility in the midst of disagreement.

Which means we need to hear the other side. Not just take in their words, but actually process what they are saying. Why do they hold the positions they hold? How did they come to that conclusion? What experiences have brought them to this point?

It is easier to just unfriend or unfollow people. It is easier to watch only the news channel that reports from our preferred angle. To dismiss alternate opinions and brush aside any information contrary to what we already believe.

The consequence is we end up living in an echo chamber where the only voices we hear are the ones that sound like ours. This makes us more polarized and deteriorates our capacity to understand people who think differently than we do. We are in trouble if we are so convinced we are right that we can’t even allow other opinions to show up in our newsfeed or on our cable news station. This is a weakness, not a strength.

If we are going to disagree well we will need to listen, actually listen, to what every side has to say. We will be better for it. Our own positions will be strengthened as we learn what others believe and perhaps our well-roundedness will gain us credibility.

If we are going to disagree like adults we will need to stop villainizing people simply because we don’t see eye to eye. I may disagree with you but it doesn’t mean I hate puppies or sunshine or your children. We can do without that nonsense. We may not come to the same conclusions about how taxes should be spent, but I don’t think either of us is trying to destroy our country.

Disagreeing with me doesn’t make you a Neanderthal/jerk/heretic/Nazi/communist/whatever-your-scariest-insult-is. It just makes you wrong. Using blanket statements and hyperbolic terms will get us nowhere. A person is not an idiot just because they have the audacity to disagree with you or me. Sitting behind our keyboards and slinging mud and insults at people we don’t have to look in the face is the cheap way out.

This is not how the real world works. We have to cooperate and live and work and study and worship with people who may disagree with us on any number of issues. They are our friends and spouses and bosses and neighbors. If there is no one in our lives who disagrees with us, we are missing out on meaningful relationships while at the same time not having any influence on people who see the world differently.

If we are to disagree well, we need to be realistic. We need to understand we won’t change everyone’s mind and agreeing to disagree is okay in most situations. We are not likely to convince a person that the positions they’ve held for decades are ignorant and no thinking person would ever come to such conclusions. Some opinions are incredibly complex and have been formed over much time and thought.

Be heard, be prepared (and be kind for crying out loud), but don’t expect a pithy statement or even a heartfelt plea to change someone’s mind. When is the last time an argument in the comment section convinced you that you were wrong? People have been arguing about the things we argue about for a long time. There are smart and caring people on many sides of many issues.

We can do better.

We can be humble. We can sometimes keep our mouths closed and fingers still. We can remember that compromise and finding common ground is not caving. We can think critically. We can allow for others to freely share what they believe. We can learn. We can listen. We can avoid attacking the other person. We can respect and love and esteem each other as fellow human beings. And still disagree.

Disagreeing isn’t the problem. The way in which we disagree will determine much of what we contribute to the world. Are we adding to the discord and division that needlessly rules the internet? Or are we voices of reason and people of respect and decency? Do we sow peace and love or discord and hate?

Let’s be right and wrong with a heaping scoop of decency. Let’s disagree well. Or at least better than we have been recently. Can we at least all agree on that?

On Responsibly Using the Internet

Internet User

source: chunk251.rssing.com

I have a love/hate relationship with the internet. It puts vast knowledge at our fingertips, keeps us connected to people around the world, and gives us a voice we may not otherwise be able to share.

At the same time it is easy for the internet, social media in particular, to become a place where the underside of humanity is put on display. It doesn’t take very long to come across things that don’t contribute to the good of society. With that in mind, here are a few guidelines we can all use to keep ourselves in check and make our internet experience less aggravating, less discouraging, and more helpful to us all.

[On what authority do I offer these guidelines? None. I speak as an expert in doing and saying stupid things and getting really worked up over very small issues.]

1) Don’t share things that are not true. This is called lying. Just because a photo or meme or quote agrees with your opinions does not make it true. Before you click “Share,” check the source. Is it reputable? Do an 8 second Google search. Most stats and stories can be verified or debunked quite quickly. Believe it or not, not everything on the internet is true (Bonjour!). It hurts your credibility when you share things that are false and when those things are about a person or group or political position it adds to an unhealthy polarization that has developed in our culture. When in doubt, don’t share. The world will keep right on spinning.

2) Be tactful. Sitting behind our screens has made some of us think we are pretty tough and others of us forget the whole “treat others the way you want to be treated” thing. We are quick to point out everyone else’s flaws and act like a bunch of playground bullies. We are dealing with real people with real feelings. If you wouldn’t say it to a person’s face, it doesn’t need to be said online. And some things that you would say in person especially don’t need said in a public forum. Just because you think it doesn’t mean it needs to be said. Use a filter. Be kind. Be thoughtful. Be considerate. Use your manners for crying out loud. I feel like we learned these lessons in kindergarten but maybe we need a refresher. This is how civilized people behave.

3) You don’t have to engage everyone who disagrees with you. This one is hard for me. It is easy to feel as if it’s our job to correct every wrong opinion we come across. As if we are some sort of keyboard crusader protecting the masses from the danger of not thinking like us. Usually our efforts are fruitless. When is the last time your opinions changed because someone pointed out how incorrect you were on Facebook? I am all for healthy dialogue and debate, but we don’t need to always be on the prowl. We should learn to be okay with people being wrong disagreeing with us. Maybe sometimes we can just keep our thoughts to ourselves. It’s not the end of the world, we are not always right, and there are better ways to spend our time. (I am going to reread what I just wrote there.)

There are probably a lot more guidelines we could discuss (feel free to add some in the comments), but let’s work on these three for now. If we can pause our fingers long enough to avoid these pitfalls, social media will be a much better place and my blood pressure will go down. The world, not just the internet, will be more truthful, more polite, and a little more enjoyable as well.