Today marks a very important day in the history of the United States. I am hoping that this will be the day when the citizens of the U.S. elect their first woman president.
But in addition to the historic nature of the public conversation, it also represents an opportunity for the beginning of a different kind of dinner table conversation. This morning as I drop my oldest child (a 2nd grader) off at school, the students are buzzing around, talking animatedly about the election, calling Trump a "bad guy" and Hillary a "liar." As a witness to this energy in an elementary school classroom, I feel excited and afraid. Excited that our children are invested in the future of our country; heartened that they are listening to and observing the adults in their lives as they grapple with the weightiness of the issues at stake. But I am also worried for them - this has been an election season like no other I have witnessed in my life, and we have all suffered for it, including our children, who have heard statements (the candidates' and our own) that should not be part of the political discourse. Unfortunately, that kind of conversation only deafens ears and blinds eyes, and what we need is the kind of conversations that invite others in and broaden thinking.
This moment presents both a challenge and an opportunity for us - how to rise above the anger, fear, and bigotry - how to show our children and ourselves that respect for others and empathy have a central place in how we think about politics and people. That our starting place should involve giving people the benefit of the doubt and assuming benevolent intentions.
Let me be clear that I see this is a tremendous challenge, for we have all been deeply hurt by the words and actions of the candidates and those around us. But yet, we must.
Let's spend a moment today thinking about each of the candidates from a place of understanding - how hard it must be to fight for so long, to give so much of oneself, to something one believes in. How unjust it might feel to lose the election after working so hard and having gained the support of so many. Let's extend this compassion to the supporters on the other side of the aisle, who feel just as passionately as we and whose loss will be as great as ours would have been. And let's convey this sense to our children in the hopes that they will grow into adults capable of having dinner table and public conversations more mature than ours.