The midterm election is over, and the House of Representatives has turned blue. So have state legislatures and governorships around the country. What will we really do with this important change in our national make-up?
We still have Donald Trump as President. But in many places throughout our country, especially in the districts where Democrats were elected and where a number of candidates were “firsts” either in the US or in their districts (Muslim women, Native American women, a Latina, African American women, a female Somali and refugee, a gay man, etc.), voters have spoken clearly: we do not want what this President is selling. We do not want 15-24 lies a day coming from the mouth of our national leader – we want trust and truth. We do not want tax advantages for the wealthy – we want income equality and fairness. We do not want to lose our health care or federal social safety nets – we want a better health care system and more robust Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security programs.
Even though “rock stars” like Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Representative Beto O’Rourke did not win their bids in Florida and Texas, respectively, their campaigns inspired hope and spurred energy among millions in ways that their southern states have not seen in a generation – if ever. (As I write, the contest between Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams in Georgia is still undecided.)
Now that we have elected many officials to whom we pin our hopes, we might feel we can relax a bit, turn to things other than politics for awhile, and leave the work to them. Yes, we can to some degree. But in reality, in this democratic republic that we love so much, we can never rest or glide or float for too long. We are already seeing, in fact, moves by Trump basically thumbing his nose at Democrats, the media and, for all intents and purposes, us voters/citizens. And, as we have seen so clearly from the 2016 election, nothing can be taken for granted – ever again. The forces of greed, fear, narcissism, fraud and corruption can very easily undo generations of progress and forward movement.
In this new era that we are entering – as many of us breathe a sigh of some relief and feel hope seep once again back into our consciousness – let us pledge to “keep on keepin’ on.” Here are some humble suggestions, and I am sure there are plenty of others.
- Continue to educate ourselves on the issues. Maybe we can relax a little for awhile on our 24/7 news consumption, but we cannot forget to remain informed and concerned citizens.
- We must remember that many Americans – perhaps many people we love and respect – will feel like “losers” following this election. We must strive to find ways to connect with them on shared values and projects if possible.
- At the same time, we should continue to stand up for our values – civilly and with facts. There is no obligation to roll over and “play dead” when someone lies to us or behaves uncivilly, violently, rudely or abusively.
- I hope we can support elected officials when they act on our behalf. Yes, we should hold their feet to the fire – civilly and constructively – when/if we feel they are not living up to our expectations. (But I would also urge some forbearance: small flaws can and perhaps should be forgiven and let go, since our representatives are human, too, and we all make mistakes.)
- Find ways to strengthen structures and programs that serve us all: education at all levels, public transportation, our local library, first responders, law enforcement. Examples such as these are supported by tax dollars. We know from the examples of our sister nations – advanced democracies – that when taxes are progressive and the wealthy pay their fair share the whole society is stronger and healthier.
- We can try to be open to new ideas, innovations, and different kinds of people and lifestyles; if we normally steer clear of people and notions that are new and feel threatening, we should ask ourselves why, especially if people we respect are embracing the newness or difference. Sometimes our reticence may be due to irrational fears or longstanding beliefs that no longer hold water. It is often only when we take the plunge – both in our personal lives and as a society – that we make true progress, and sometimes that plunge takes a heavy dose of courage and mutual trust.
- In order to keep ourselves mentally and psychologically healthy and strong, we should consider being an active, engaged member of a supportive, loving community, such as a faith group, if we are not already. A truly loving community, in my opinion, will not force us to believe irrational creeds or judge us for trivial, unimportant shortcomings. It may never be perfect, but it will generally be comprised of people who provide a gentle barrier against isolation, loneliness and despair.
In many ways, we are entering a new era in our country. There are many reasons for hope – and always the need to remain vigilant. Onward!