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Voting for America (no matter who wins)

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Four years ago we wrote an op-ed for our local San Diego paper titled Making America Stronger (No Matter Who Wins).

Our call to (open) arms, inviting fellow citizens to reimagine a de-polarized America driven by trans-partisan collaboration was an attempt to replace the win-at-all-costs mentality and de-escalate the political civil war that is weakening our nation.

Failing to cease and desist from tearing each other down, find common ground, heal the divide, or effectively address the shared concerns of our time, an even deeper strain of the eye-for-an-eye mentality has left us blinder than ever.

As we enter the final stretch of a marathon election season, shared visions for a better tomorrow are conspicuously absent as communities brace for civil unrest, chaos, and even violence should the election be contested. Our hopes for a future where we can collectively climb to higher ground have been overshadowed by the emergence of a political radicalism that is threatening our democracy. Even our ability and willingness to come together and knock down this pandemic has been impaired. The ugly division over issues as critical as health care, the environment, racism, immigration, and the simple act of wearing a mask to prevent the community spread of a lethal virus have exposed an unsightly layer of self-righteous indifference, contentious arrogance, intolerance, injustice, hatred, and corruption.

Despite the well-intentioned efforts of many, little seems to have changed in our collective will to come together and place what is best for our country over what is best for our party.

Partisan politics have widened the gap between what people believe is best for our nation.

As things have devolved, those once considered liberals and conservatives are now saddled with labels such as “socialists” and “fascists.” Identity politics has brought us to a new low where name-calling, personal insults, lies, misinformation, and conspiracies prevail.

In a matter of days now, we’re going to elect a new president or reelect the old one. We may find ourselves in a state of unprecedented mayhem and violence if tensions are allowed to escalate and spill out into the streets. To prevent America from descending even farther down the rabbit hole, we suggest a shift in perspective called Voting for America (No Matter Who Wins).

Just as important as voting for our preferred candidate is acting in the best interests of our country after the election — whether we win or not.

Voting for America means remaining steadfast in our commitment to do everything in our power to leave our nation better and safer for our children, our grandchildren, and future generations. This election and our vote are critically important — but they’re not the entire enchilada. It is not only our elected leaders who run this nation, set its moral compass, embody its values, and shape its future. It is all of us, using our voices and building on — rather than tearing down — everything that is good and right in America… and striving for a more perfect union.

Packing your bags and leaving for Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or Argentina — or — radicalizing into domestic terrorism, taking up arms or perpetrating violence against the “other side” are all ways of abdicating responsibility for being a citizen of this great and imperfect nation.

The jaded among us might have already decided that unifying America is a pipe dream that is out of our reach. We disagree.

Our democracy is a work in progress. When we model the changes we wish to see in this world, turning grief to grace, rancor to respect, and despair into hope, we grow stronger. If you agree that we’re truly better than this, vote with us to move America to higher ground, and get back to work on the things that strengthen our communities. Let us stay focused on what we can do together to be the strongest, best version of ourselves after the election, heal our wounds, and find a common purpose.

Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:

  1. Refocus on the end goal. Begin with the common aspiration, Making America Better and Stronger.
  2. Inspire change by sharing what you feel passionate about in a constructive, inclusive way. 
  3. Call out/document the behavior of liars, cheaters, dividers, bullies, and name callers. Hold them accountable in a direct and respectful manner.
  4. Regroup as trans-partisan Americans, collaborating to solve problems across the divide. Disagree vehemently if you must, as family members often do, but as members of one nation.
  5. Seek out others who care about the things you care about, find common ground, and help unify our communities by working together collaboratively.
  6. Give yourself time to recover from election hangovers, fatigue, and despair. Rest and rejuvenate!
  7. Some of us are going to feel deeply disappointed, angry, disenchanted, and disheartened by the election results. Find constructive, nonviolent ways to express those feelings.
  8. Bring out the positive and the possible in each other, our community, and our nation.
  9. Try your best to get out of the weeds, and turn to the kind of big-picture thinking that puts you back on track, working for positive change.
  10. Take steps to champion leaders in your community, including elected officials who operate from and model civility, listen well, learn from others, work collaboratively, embody fairness, and have a proven capacity to bring about substantive and sustainable change regardless of their political allegiances.
  11. Pivot from a “Tear Down Cancel Culture” to a “Build Up Civil Discourse” mindset. Become part of the solution by contributing to your community and nation. 

Be the kind of approachable, respectful, open-minded, and trustworthy person whom people will want to learn from and work with.

It’s been four years since we composed our first op-ed, and things have gotten worse. If we choose not to learn the lessons, they will just keep getting harder, and the negative elements of history will repeat themselves. The choices before us as citizens are not unlike the ones we make as families. Since no family or family member is perfect, we can do what makes our family healthier, better, stronger, and more responsive to the needs of its members — or what tears it down.

Strengthening our families, like strengthening our nation, happens from the inside out. The inner work requires us to bring out the best in one another, find common ground despite our differences, work through impasses, build trust by telling the truth, and reconcile our differences by remaining humble.

So, what is it going to be? Work together to strengthen our family and nation, or tear it down with unrestrained arrogance, fear, anger, bitterness, and vengeance? Awakening to the dangers and opportunities before us at this volatile time in American history will, we hope, lead us to informed choices that benefit us, as well as future generations. Let us be the citizen-leaders who rebuild and unify this blessed nation.

Dr. Ken Druck is an expert on aging and family psychology who has been featured on Oprah and CNN, FOX and PBS as well as in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. His work over the past four decades has been focused on strengthening families through “courageous living.” He holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Fielding Institute and a bachelor’s degree from Hofstra University. He is the author of numerous books including “The Secrets Men Keep,” “The Real Rules of Life,” “Courageous Aging” and “Raising an Aging Parent.” Learn more at www.kendruck.com.

Neville Billimoria is Senior Vice President of Membership/Marketing and Chief Advocacy Officer at Mission Federal Credit Union, a $4.5B financial services organization. He is also founder of the Chamber of Purpose, board member on the Conscious Leaders Collective & Conscious Capitalism Advisory Boards, teacher of martial arts, yoga and meditation at UCSD and a community leader based in San Diego.

Tags 2020 election civility Community building political polarization Post-election Voting

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