This election year is full of vitriol and divisiveness. People might conclude that the apocalypse is upon us. Yet, the sun keeps rising each morning. People still work together. Families and friends find ways to communicate, despite opposing political views. Our Canadian neighbors even made a video to remind us that everything will be okay. The title is “Tell America It’s Great” (with the hashtag #tellamericaitsgreat).
The three presidential debates are over. Most people know how they feel about Clinton and Trump. And, after November 8th, the election will be over. Two people no longer dominate the news cycle. Other stories, important stories, can return to the headlines. Will life return to normal?
In many ways, life is already normal, even if it does not seem like it. People struggle with everyday questions and concerns. People celebrate joys and share struggles. They go to work, attend church, raise children, and support their favorite sports teams. They relax and recreate. They argue and make-up. And, when they argue, they argue about normal things, not policies or politics.
By focusing on political divisions, reporters generate more interest in their stories. Their business is, in fact, based on subscriptions and clicks. Violence at rallies, hatred between candidates, or shocking revelations might be good for business. But, it is bad for life.
The truth is, the average person is not violent at rallies. Usually violence is the work of a few disruptive people. The police arrest them. And, they enter the due process of the criminal justice system. Outlandish behavior and sexism aside, most people work together and behave in a civil manner. This is the point.
We do not need to look to our leaders to show us how to behave. They will always fail. They are human. Throughout history, leaders have failed. They can be immoral, unethical, unintellectual, and nonstrategic—they all fail. If you find one who has not, chances are almost certain that no one has discovered their failures yet. Though, the failures do exist. Recognizing leaders' failures does not excuse it. This is especially true when the failure is particularly egregious.
The Garden Collective started the social media movement “Tell America It’s Great.” The campaign harkens to the idea of paying it forward. In other words, when someone does something nice for you, do something nice for someone else. There are stories of people paying for the next person at a toll booth or fast food drive through. The kindness can go on for hours in an unbroken string. This kindness equates to the kind of love God has for all creation.
Christians who seek to reclaim civility in a such a partisan year can act where they are. In this election, we have learned about each other. We have learned that we are complex individuals. Many people find it shocking to discover a family member or friend supporting Trump or Clinton. Yet, the person has not changed. They are still our family members and friends. They have just decided that one candidate meets their hopes for the future.
The beauty of the American experiment is this: they can make that decision. The system allows it. Each person can make up his or her mind about who they support in an election. When the votes are cast and counted, we the people find out who won. We must continue being friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family.
Working together has to start with us.