It was November 1972 when I voted for the first time in a presidential election. The horror of the Viet Nam “War” pressured the government to lower the voting age to 18, allowing that young people mature enough to kill and be killed on foreign shores were mature enough to vote. The law had not affected me because of my birth date, so I was 21 at the time.
My friends and I took the right seriously, researching as well as we could pre-internet to choose the best candidate, believing our votes counted. We observed the conventions when candidates were actually chosen and followed the election, the results of which were known by the time we retired late that night.
Since that time, I have voted in every major election. Sometimes my candidate won, other times not. Other than a few moments of rejoicing or disappointment, I went to bed and continued life the next day unaffected. Not that the results didn’t affect our lives over the course of years. But we lost no friends, conversations and community continued as before; our political views did not impact our personal relationships.
Now I wonder: Will we ever mend the rift revealed by this past administration and elections? The big issues of racism, classism, bigotry, and misogyny are more raw than we fathomed. I don’t think it is all bad: the exposure of these issues, which were denied and ignored, is a call to awareness and action corporeally and individually. My heart is heavy with the awareness of the challenges many people have endured while I enjoyed a relative life of privilege. My heart is heavy as I contemplate the enormity of the problems and my tiny impact on them. It motivates me to more compassion and tolerance for everyone I meet.
Closer to home: the impact on personal relationships. I have lost respect and admiration for people whose qualities I would not have questioned before. As I worshiped in a community of faith, I naively assumed a shared set of values integral to the Christian life. Now I know those don’t exist. Why do we worship together? Will I be comfortable with these people again?
It is my hope that the nation moves ahead, addressing the injustices that divide us. That can’t happen, though, unless we as individuals acknowledge the “errors of our ways”, no matter who we vote for. But how do we reconnect when we do not speak the same language?