I originally posted this as a status on Facebook, but decided to include it here for posterity.
This week I experienced my first US election outside American borders. It was one of the worst experiences I have had abroad. My person and my country were indirectly and directly insulted and ridiculed by Canadians, Europeans, Chinese, and fellow Americans.
I was completely disheartened by the childish response of most of my peers. The level of animosity and hatred displayed by US Citizens astounded me. People whom I would typically classify as respectable individuals swore loudly and vehemently that Americans are stupid. Some called for the assassination of the president elect. Others called for a coup, or dictatorship from our current leader. Hysterical voices rashly called for a change in the system, in what can only be described a temper tantrum. Down with the electoral college! F-the system, F-the man, F-everything.
I hate politics.
I hate politics because it brings out the worst in people. It brings out the narrow-minded selfish parts of our personalities. There's no room for opinions or values that differ from your own. Everyone immediately and dramatically jumps to the worst possible scenario, even if it's incredibly unlikely.
The emotional storm is palpable. Some of the cursing is cathartic though all of it is unnecessary. The irony is lost amid cigarettes and beer as the same people who curse the "uninformed voters" call for reform which is equally uninformed.
This brings me to two important points:
1) Empathy. Yes, you're upset, angry, and frustrated. That's exactly how someone else felt eight years ago: in the last election. And that's how someone will feel in another four or eight years when things don't go their way. Very rarely has one political party held the office of President for three consecutive terms. Whether we like it or not, we're a very divided country and having a government that swings politically every four to eight years is probably one of our strengths, considering our diverse opinions.
2) The electoral college was put in place for very specific reasons. It's goal was to separate the President from the Congress (that is, the President is not chosen by Congress) and prevent the population from making poor choices in the heat of an emotionally fueled election. (The founding fathers feared the damage that uninformed masses could inflict upon society. Yes, you could say they thought Americans could be stupid too.)
If, as a country, we eventually decide this system doesn't work for us, the time to change it is not during or immediately after an election. It's not something you invoke just because you don't get your way. The time for change would be midway through a Presidential term. Far enough from an election to allow for proper debate and logical arguments to be made. A change like this shouldn't be made rashly.
But to be completely honest, I don't think the problem is the electoral college. I think the problem is more personal. It's disrespect. It's hypocrisy. It's not being able to see things from someone else's viewpoint. It's not being able to put aside prejudice. The world does not become a better place when you treat people with disdain.
An old book lays down some very important guidelines about how we, as people, should act. One of the ten basic tenants it describes is how we should talk about other people. It says we should talk about them truthfully and assume they have good intentions in the things they do.
In later chapters the book suggests that we should even treat others the way we would like them to treat us.
I always assume people are smart. No one does something because they think it's an incredibly bad idea. People always have reasons for the things they do and I like to think they have good reasons. I don't always agree with intentions or outcomes, but I like to think people are usually not acting with malicious intent.
When it comes to politics, I don't believe anyone wants to make America worse. No one runs on the platform of "burning it to the ground." Yet there are a lot of differing opinions about what will make America great. We love our national diversity, but that means we will always have a lot of diverse opinions about what will be most beneficial. It also means we will have different view on who should be the benefactors.
America is a relatively young country. We're still figuring things out. With each new president and congress we try new programs and initiatives, or scrap old ones we don't feel are helpful. Each time we do this, some people will feel the benefits, but some may also feel drawbacks. There's no single solution which is going to help everyone. We're too diverse for that.
That said, civility will go a long way towards making life more bearable. Maybe this election isn't going to benefit you in the way you want, but it's going to benefit someone.
It's going to benefit another American somewhere.
Can you find joy or take pride in knowing that your sacrifice is helping someone else?
Maybe this election will benefit you. Remember that, next time the voting doesn't go your way. Remember that someone else is reaping some benefits and their voice is going to be heard. Remember that they are feeling the same happiness you are now.
Lastly, if you feel compelled to share this message, or know someone who needs to hear it: pass it along with tact and compassion. If they're not ready for it, put note on your calendar to pass it along at a more opportune time.
Through good times and bad times, there's no need for worry. Yes, life sucks sometimes, but a higher power directs history and nothing happens without a greater purpose.
God bless the USA.