Unity of our nation starts at home. It’s not up to Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama. It is up to you and me.
It begins in our family, our neighborhood, continues into our workplace, extends to the places we hang out at in our cities, and spreads to our circle of friends on social media. You and I have reach. What you and I do and say in our circles has impact.
We can make a difference and help stop the hatred, reduce the fear, and restore civility to our conversations and to our nation by staying in relationship with one another.
You Don’t Pick Your Family
Family is probably the hardest one for me. I love the members of my family, and I see us as so very different along this political divide. If I allow it, I can let what I am feeling around our election short circuit my feelings of genuine love for my family. To stay in a short circuited place will not create unity in my family.
I’m still emotionally raw from, what for me, was a surprise election result. I am not in a place to discuss the ramifications of this with my family right now. So I have chosen, for now, not to discuss politics with them and not allow them to discuss it with me. It is called a boundary.
There are many things we can talk about to stay connected…what our kids are doing, places we enjoyed eating out, maybe a vacation we are planning for, what happened during the day. Yes, these things may be superficial but they are safe, and it keeps us connected and talking while allowing time for the intensity of the emotions to dissipate. It is called space.
I have chosen not to ignore what my family posts on social media. This is called owning my right to speak, to have my opinion. When I know I have this I can better engage in the types of face to face conversations I outlined above. Knowing I have power to express my voice here, helps reduce my feelings of wanting to stay away in person.
Obviously responding on Facebook can be tricky, but I do it respectfully and stick to verifiable facts. I am interested in correct information, not changing anyone’s opinion. This means I am only addressing “political” posts or shares that are untrue, misleading, and/or do not lend to the creation of unity (because of the inaccuracies of the post).
My family isn’t dumb or mean. Accurate data is something that helps all of us.
Doing this gives me the opportunity to take action and provide accurate information to not only them, but to everyone reading their posts. It helps me stay more informed as well. It also allows me to be in agreement with my family. When I see their posts about things happening that I agree are not right I “like” it. Things like acts of violence and hate toward people, or damage to property are examples.
Accountability is not red or blue, it is an individual responsibility we all have.
Find Common Ground
With our neighbors and co-workers we can find our common ground and expand on it.
This may require to agree not to discuss politics at all. It may require agreeing on a set of rules in advance if we do. Invite these people to share what their boundaries are around conversation of the political events happening today, and share yours with them. Be proactive in establishing the boundaries you need to remain connected and engaged with them, and emphasize your desire to stay connected.
Remember that the people who live next door and the colleague working in the next cubicle are flesh and bone and have a beating heart just like you and me. We are not red or blue pictograms.
The holidays are coming and this affords an opportunity to get together with neighbors and colleagues to celebrate thankfulness and participate in acts of goodwill. Focus on these things. If you normally send or exchange food items or gifts, continue to do so regardless of your political differences.
Act in the spirit of the season you normally embrace.
Declare Your Social Media Responsibility
It is time for you and me, more than ever, to be diligent in the truth of what is posted on social media.
This is going to require work on our part. First, it means we have to take ownership not to post things that are false, demeaning, rude, or anything that promotes hate. Second, when we see a meme or post that is false or promotes hate and division, don’t scroll by it. Address it.
Is the information true, accurate, and complete? Find out. Go to the original source of the information.
If it is not true, not complete, or is inaccurate say so and explain why in a matter of fact, respectful way. Include the link to your source. Think of it like a chemistry teacher conveying information about the elements of the periodic table to his students. It isn’t about an argument or debate; it is about sharing accurate data and information.
I also include a reminder when appropriate, “Posts like these create division, or promote hate, or …. We all have a responsibility to find our common ground and work together.”
The energy in our country right now is tense. I am emotional, others are too. It will get better, and you and I can help that happen sooner than later. It starts by not talking about each other in mean and dispirited ways.
By doing the things I shared above, we can maintain relationships and connections in our own circles. As our individual (and collective) emotions subside from the election results, it will be easier to talk to those in our circles and find the common ground needed to build and move our country forward.
Keep talking and keep the faith.
Photo: Getty Images