Assuming I would ever want to go from calm to angry-while-despairing in a very short time, one easy way would be to contemplate the extensive evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 US election. There’s a lot to sift through–scrolling down the Wikipedia entry makes you feel like you’re falling into a rabbit hole (and there are 478 footnotes to the main article). But there is one very simple conclusion that I want to highlight here: as I understand it, a primary purpose for the various efforts was to sow confusion, discord and division among American voters. Sadly, the Russians aren’t the only ones trying to get that job done in the days leading up to the 2018 election. Though they might deny that this is there intention, from my perspective there are many Americans lending a hand in the effort–in effect making common cause with a group doing their best to do us harm.
The goal is not just confusion but antipathy–there’s both money and power to be gained in the “rile ’em up” arena. With such energy poured into efforts to make me hate people who have different views than I do, I respond with a line well used in childhood: “you can’t make me.” Yes, there are many views that I find hard to swallow, but I’ve come to recognize that when I’m tempted to say, “anybody who thinks that way is crazy,” I haven’t considered carefully enough what actual factors would cause someone to think that way, and I’ll be better off if I do. Even if I conclude that the view is abhorrent to me, the people who hold it don’t need to be. And I hope that others who think my views are beneath contempt can feel that way about me.
Another aim of those who want to interfere with this election is to prevent (certain) people from voting, using more tactics that confuse. I’ve heard of groups being targeted with ads telling them that they can vote from home by going to a certain website, or that they’re no longer registered to vote, so they won’t be able to cast a ballot, or that their polling place has been closed. In some cases those are lies, but sadly, in other instances it’s the truth–many people, especially people of color, have been removed from voter rolls under various pretexts, and many, many polling places have been closed, disproportionately affecting people of color.
I don’t know what sort of consequences will ever be visited on the Russian operatives indicted for interfering in the last election. I don’t know what long-term effects will ever be felt by those in this country who are working so hard to divide us. And I wonder how people sleep at night who spend their days trying to prevent others from voting. But here’s what I do know: we fight back against those trying to divide us by attempting to understand others and to feel empathy. and we fight back against those trying to suppress voting by making sure we cast our ballot. If we don’t vote, we hand the victory to those trying to prevent us from exercising this fundamental civil right.
You may already have voted, or you may have made a concrete plan for how you’ll get the job done next Tuesday. If there are any doubts in your mind about what it will take for your ballot to count, you’re in luck, because the video series below includes instructions for how to vote in each one of the 50 states, as well as two US territories. Click through to watch on youtube, scroll down and click the “show more” link to see the alphabetical list of all the states. I have sent in my ballot, but out of curiosity I watched the video for Wisconsin, as one of my daughters lives there. The video covered all the bases–here’s what you need, here are the deadlines; if you miss the deadline, here’s something else you can do–it’s packed with good instructions and helpful links.
I think we’ll find that the voting part, even if it requires considerable energy, is relatively easy, when compared to the “don’t hate the other guys” part. It’s just much harder to resist the pressures that want to divide us, to turn us against “them,” all those people who are selfish, unfeeling, ignorant, and reckless. Knowing that there are people who would want to apply all those adjectives to me makes it interesting, but not easy.
Before we can get down to the brass tacks of how we manage to resist the pressure to divide, we have to want to resist. I’m not sure what motivates you, but there are a few things that motivate me. For one, seeing the results of the path of least resistance that our country has been slithering down for some time is extremely sobering–I’m all for a different approach.
For another, getting all stirred up by anger just feels terrible. I see real value in standing up for our convictions, but we can make that stand without wreaking havoc with our blood pressure and our digestion.
Best of luck on the Voting, and the Not Hating. Both projects are critically important.
[Images: videoblocks.com, huffingtonpost.com, castinepatriot.com]