I’ll be honest. I didn’t think there was any chance in hell Donald Trump was going to win this election.
I try to keep things here free of politics.
I only made one or two little posts about the election. I think.
And so last night, as things became less and less hopeful to me, I took to my personal Facebook page to find some support.
I posted this:
The worse things started looking for Hillary, the more nervous I became, and I started making some jokes.
I was just trying to add some levity to the situation, especially to my friends who were also freaking out a little bit.
So I posted this:
Then things were really looking dire. And I wrote this:
It was a joke.
Anyway, a friend in California invited me to come live there and a friend in Florida suggested we start a compound in Colorado.
I was laughing.
It helped the situation.
And then a friend posted this comment in response to my post:
What the hell?
It’s one thing to insult me. A grown up.
But don’t go there. Don’t bring my kids into it.
How a father, a grandfather, could wish something like that on someone’s children is beyond me.
(Let’s ignore the fact that someone actually “liked” his comment).
Anyway, it became abundantly clear to me at that moment that this country’s problem is not who we have elected as our next president.
This country’s problem is that we do not know how to communicate respectfully with people whose opinions are different from ours without reacting. Attacking. Bashing. Ganging up on them.
I have been guilty of this in the past on the local level politically. I’m not proud of that.
But I have become aware of it. And I have changed it.
Politics is for sure a big trigger. It’s a challenge to stay civil. It’s tough to stay calm, and it can be tough to remain respectful.
And I think my generation and my parents’ generation has the hardest time with it.
I don’t think we were really taught to communicate effectively. We were not taught to respect differences. We were not taught how to have a voice as children.
We were taught to obey. We were taught to do as we were told.
My grandparents were taught that white people were superior to black people. Christians were right. Jews were wrong.
My parents were taught that being gay was wrong. It was a choice. A sickness even.
My brothers and I were taught that children with special needs should be taught in separate classrooms.
Or even separate schools.
We made jokes about kids riding the short bus.
We were not exactly taught to respect all human beings, no matter what their differences were.
So we have made progress, that is for sure.
But we still have a ways to go.
I take comfort in the fact that my kids know it’s okay for a man to fall in love with a woman.
Or a man.
I have done some things well.
But there is still room for improvement.
It’s hard when that’s the way you were raised. I get it.
And the way we were taught to communicate, we are stuck on being right.
We are hell bent on forcing other people to get it through their thick skulls that our way is the best way. The only way. Only one person can be right.
And it’s never the other person.
We do not know how to function and cooperate when we don’t all agree on everything.
We don’t know how to debate respectfully.
We know how to bulldoze and be bulldozed.
As kids we were blamed and shamed and given serious consequences for making mistakes.
Whether they were big or small.
So we learned to lie. We learned to rebel. We learned to point the finger at someone else.
But we didn’t learn that mistakes are opportunities for growth, and we didn’t learn to accept responsibility for them.
There’s not a whole lot of middle ground right now.
And this issue isn’t just limited to our relationships with friends and acquaintances.
It effects our marriages. So many of us have difficulty with taking responsibility for our mistakes and communicating with our spouses.
We forget so easily that there can be two totally different perceptions of something and they can both be totally accurate.
Remember when the picture of that dress was circulating around Facebook a year or two ago?
And some people saw a white dress but other people blue dress?
And the people who saw the blue dress were right but the people who saw the white dress were right, too?
We are not getting that here in this country!
Or how about that picture in the book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People?
The one were you are asked to look at this picture?
And some people say they see a beautiful woman? But other people say they see an ugly old woman?
And both groups of people are like What the fuck is wrong with you guys???
But then you look at the two following pictures and then back at the original one, and you can see both sides.
Both people are looking at the same thing.
And both people are seeing completely different things.
And they are both right.
But the reason why this is so difficult for so many Americans is because 1) as children we were not taught how to communicate effectively and 2) we are focusing on the wrong things.
We are focusing on grades and test scores and excelling at things at a young age and preparing our children for college, and in the process, we are failing to teach them about empathy and compassion and understanding and accountability and differences.
When it comes down to it I think we all just want to be safe and happy and protected and loved.
Arguing and clashing constantly is no fun.
And it’s exhausting.
Imagine how different — and how much happier and healthier — this country would be if instead of putting the effort we exert arguing endlessly with people who are seeing the blue dress (when they clearly should be seeing the white dress), we were looking at ourselves, recognizing our shortcomings, and learning and practicing to communicate more effectively.
That’s where the work has to start.
I know that people say leadership starts at the top.
But in this case, I don’t think that’s true.
Leadership starts at home.
It starts with each of us taking a good, hard look at ourselves.
And then it starts with educating our children. Guiding them toward hard work, self-reflection, compassion, empathy, perseverance, and acceptance.
It starts with making it safe for them to make and learn from their mistakes.
It starts inside our own homes.
It doesn’t matter who is president.
It starts with us.
Once we’ve got ourselves on the right track, and our children on the right track, then we have put the wheels in motion.
Our children are now ambassadors of tolerance and acceptance. They are communicators and facilitators.
And if each of them sets and example for just one other person, the chain reaction has already started.
And healing and change and forward momentum has begun.
What we experienced last night is like when you go to the doctor for a physical and you have all your blood work done, and you know you have gained a few pounds and maybe you could eat better, but you’ve been doing a pretty good job, so you are pretty sure when you get the results back everything is going to be within the healthy range.
But instead, you get a slap on the wrist from the doctor who tells you your blood pressure is in the danger zone, your cholesterol levels are almost double what they should be and your waistline is nearing a very unhealthy range.
And you aren’t in imminent danger of dying, but if you don’t make some serious changes, you might be soon.
What happened last night is is not a death sentence.
But it is a wake up call.
Wake up, America.
It’s time to take better care of yourself.
It’s time to make healthier decisions for yourself.
It’s time to make some changes that, in the short run, will be difficult and frustrating and tiring and possibly infuriating, but that will also, in the long run, be completely life changing. And rewarding.
And they will improve the quality of not only your life, but your family’s life.
It’s time to be better parents.
It’t time to be better communicators.
It’s time to remind ourselves that maybe our angry neighbors are seeing the blue dress when we are seeing the white one.
Maybe that grandpa who felt the need to go after my children just needs more examples of effective communication.
Maybe he’ll follow my lead. Probably not.
And if not, it’s okay.
I can keep just keep walking. Someone else will be sure to follow.
It’s time to create safe and supportive environments for your children to learn to be more responsible, kind, and tolerant human beings.
Once we do that, we change the way we all interact.
And whether we agree or disagree, whether we are black or white or brown or yellow, whether we are gay or straight or bi or still trying to figure that out, whether we are far left or far right or somewhere in between, we are able to actually listen to each other and to respond with respect and kindness.
No matter where we stand on the issue.
I know, that sounds like some unattainable utopia.
But I think the reality we are living in today is something most of us never would have dreamed could ever actually happen either.
So I think we’ve got a chance.
But if we are going to point a finger at the person who’s responsible, I think the first person we need to point it at is ourselves.