Looking Beyond Election 2020: How You Can Help Heal America
As Election Week 2020 looms, many of us are mentally preparing for worst-case scenarios: a drawn-out result, a contested outcome, a flaring-up of violent skirmishes. Under any scenario, and no matter who wins, we already know this to be true: millions of Americans will be elated, and millions of Americans will be dejected. We saw the first movie, and the sequel promises to be a real dog.
It may feel like our divisions can only be hardened in the wake of the upcoming, contentious election cycle. How could it be any other way? After all, our opinions have certainly hardened, our feelings towards one another have hardened, and the positions of our elected leaders have hardened as well.
But what if … what if … the wake of this election could instead provide an opportunity for softening the divisions that have caused so much damage to our national psyche? What if we could find our way back to each other, simply because we have become so fatigued with the level of animosity and rancor? What if it turns out that we did some hard work these past few years, in order to better understand and appreciate why fellow citizens might see the world differently than we do? What if we have learned a thing or two about the forces that aim to divide us along political fault lines, and we have collectively decided, “We’re not gonna take it anymore!”
Take a Pledge, Then Take Action
Perhaps I am being too optimistic in describing the potential for healing in the wake of Election 2020. But know this, I am not alone. In fact, many exciting, ambitious programs are underway right now, as I write this, to help Americans engage in the healing process that we will sorely need, no matter who prevails in November. Each starts with the simple, powerful idea of a personal commitment or pledge, then guides and inspires us all to undertake further healing actions:
Braver Angels has launched With Malice Towards None, a campaign and toolkit enabling campuses, civic organizations, communities, and individuals to “create a space for people to deal with their emotions (positive and negative), to build our capacities for working together to address our common challenges, and to commit ourselves to a renewed citizenship.” Participating in this campaign starts with taking the following pledge:
“Regardless of how the election turns out, I will not hold hate, disdain, or ridicule for those who voted differently from me. Whether I am pleased or upset about the outcome, I will seek to understand the concerns and aspirations of those who voted differently and will look for opportunities to work with people with whom I disagree.”
One America Movement recently announced Corona Rebuild, an interfaith initiative to “create a more resilient, strong, and united country working together to solve our common challenges.” Joined already by the National Association of Evangelicals, as well as various Jewish, African-American Christian and Muslim organizations, this important initiative also starts with a pledge and offers onramps for anyone — religious or secular — who is committed to countering divisive narratives and working on common problems afflicting Americans today. The pledge states:
“We pledge to work with our neighbors who come from different religious, racial, and political backgrounds to rebuild our country. We pledge to serve our local communities. We pledge to tell our stories and share our experiences to counter divisive narratives. And we pledge to do this work while confronting our most difficult challenges and differences.”
In a similar vein, Golden Rule 2020 ascribes to the enduring notion that people of all political, religious, and racial stripes should “treat others as you wish to be treated.” Led by the National Institute for Civil Discourse and framed as “a call for dignity and respect in politics,” Prominent and local faith leaders around the country have signed on with a commitment to promote the principles of Golden Rule 2020 throughout their congregations and communities. The pledge:
“I commit to do my best to practice the Golden Rule and treat others with respect and dignity in my political discourse and behavior during the 2020 campaign season.”
Living Room Conversations offers a breadth of resources for holding constructive conversations across political divides before, during, and after Election 2020. Their comprehensive election resource page makes it easy to choose a topic and host a small-group conversation with family, friends, neighbors, and strangers. Living Room Conversations urges all Americans to reflect on the fact that:
“Democracy can’t function when we are unable to talk through our differences. If the American experiment is to survive, we must begin the work of domestic peace building.”
The Weaving Community in Crisis campaign launched immediately in the wake of the pandemic and has evolved throughout America’s summer of cataclysms. Co-led by Weave: the Social Fabric Project (under David Brooks’ auspices) and the National Conversation Project, the #WeavingCommunity campaign provides offramps from political division and onramps to positive social connection. The campaign encourages all Americans to:
“Connect through honest conversation to start and deepen relationships where you live. Take care of yourself, your family and your community. Imagine what can emerge from this moment and create the life we want together.”
Already underway Sep 12th through Sep 20th, Welcoming America is hosting Welcoming Week, in which “organizations and communities bring together immigrants, refugees, and long-time residents to build strong connections and affirm the importance of welcoming and inclusive places in achieving collective prosperity. Welcoming Week aims to achieve the following:
“At a time when political rhetoric has deepened divisions and the COVID-19 pandemic has renewed anti-immigrant sentiment, Welcoming Week reminds us to double down on our inclusive vision and find new ways to bring together people across lines of difference to develop greater understanding and mutual support.”
Need to feel a greater sense of optimism and empowerment heading into Election 2020? If so, then you are not alone. Join thousands of fellow Americans who are “taking the pledge” — and then taking action — to connect, bridge, heal, and work across divides, both during and beyond this contentious election cycle.