We arrived in America in the middle of the 2004 Federal Election. It was a hot political time. We met a lot of people in America who felt the same as a lot of people out of America that President Bush was creating unnecessary conflict around the world. So when Bush won a second term in 2004, we were among a group of people who were devastated and anxious.
We called a meeting for local people who wanted to gather and share their feelings about Bush’s reelection. It was an amazing and healing time for many people. There was one staunch Republican in attendance who was very agitated. He didn’t like the tone of the gathering and at the end got up in peoples’ faces telling them how wrong it was. He even got physical with one woman. pushing her up against the wall and telling her to “toe the line and support the President”. His behavior was a perfect example of what we were anxious about; militant dogmatism and squashing diversity.
I thought at the time, “The tides will eventually turn. They always do. And this man will be nowhere to be seen then.”
Because I’d made my views very plain, after the election I received several texts and emails from Republicans with really nasty attempts to rub my nose in Bush’s victory.
I thought at the time, “The tides will eventually turn. They always do. And where will these people will be then?”
I looked forward to the day when I could feel what they were feeling, the elation of your preferred candidate being elected, but wondered if I would feel smug like they seemed to be acting. I got my chance four years later and again this week.
I can pinpoint relief, excitement, anticipation, satisfaction and other positive emotions…..but not hostility. There’s no reason to feel hostile. Apart from anything else, the tides will turn again and the boot will be on the other foot once more.
This made me think about the value in walking in others’ shoes, and understanding their perspective. Nothing is lost when you do, and so much is gained.
In our highly polarized and competitive world, one person’s win is often another’s loss. One team’s, one party’s, one whatever’s excitement is sometimes disappointment for another.But it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a way that everyone can win, without anyone giving up their values. It’s called empathy. The beautiful thing about empathy is that you can feel another persons pain as if its your own and this empathy brings compassion, but you don’t have to save them or solve their problem. You can understand another person’s perspective without giving up your own. You can respect another person’s opinion without agreeing with them.
This is the power of unity in diversity. Its unity’s win/win/win; the trifecta of peace, respect and understanding.
This is how I feel today and how I intend to live in the face of my personal satisfaction. I want everyone to be well, and feel heard without needing to give up my own joy. I know how Republicans feel today. I’ve been there. And I can offer them compassion without losing my own excitement.
I like the Joe Namath quote that applies just as much to politics, and life, as it does to sport.
Learn how to be a gracious winner and an outstanding loser.