On election Tuesday, I was chatting with the contractor who was helping us with last-minute pre-baby home-improvement projects. He asked if I’d been watching any coverage on television. I told him I hadn’t, that I had been too nervous.
He said, “We just need to win Ohio.”
I replied with an unconvincing, “Yeah,” because it occurred to me that I didn’t know if we were rooting for the same guy. Both needed Ohio.
My contractor assumed we were. I didn’t clarify. Had the months of campaigning and barrage of vitriol and misinformation pushed me to keep my views private?
Apparently, I am in the minority about keeping my political views discreet. They’re not secret, but neither do I wear them on my sleeve.
Based on the ramped-up political rhetoric on TV and over the Internet during the past few months, it seems voters are not afraid to sound their alarm. And now, post-election, the opinions are still spilling forth.
Facebook users are commenting on comments and friends are forwarding forwarded emails in order to gloat or whine.
Elections are an emotional affair. And this one, in particular, left some feeling worse for wear because the results were so evenly divided. Odds are that several of your co-workers, neighbors and/or relatives have political views unlike your own. So remember, it’s not only about the issues we debate, it’s also about those with whom we debate them.
This year my 22-year-old brother voted in his first presidential election. I was taken aback a few weeks ago when we traded texts about the issues and he said he was undecided but was leaning toward the candidate whom I thought we both opposed. I took it for granted that we’d be ticking the same box on Election Day and, in the end, we did not. I became emotional about it. Someone that I love, respect and admire deeply didn’t share the same vision or values that I did — and vice versa. I couldn’t separate his political decision from him as a person.
As we move forward over the next four years, will our nation remain as divided as it seemed to be last Tuesday? And more importantly, will our personal relationships? I polled my friends for their strategies and coping mechanisms when it comes to political politesse — especially with Thanksgiving weekend fast approaching. (It’s the one occasion during which the furthest branches of the family tree and all their/our quirky views come together in one place minus the decorum required at weddings and funerals.)
The general consensus among them was to adopt either the ‘no conversations about politics or religion’ rule or the ‘agree to disagree’ rule, basing your choice on the familiarity and comfort level of your specific social circle.
Here are some things to think about:
u For the debater who places more energy on getting his/her point across than fostering the growth of relationships, I suggest that he/she think of the example being set. “How am I supposed to teach my children things like not to hate and to respect other people and their opinions when I’ve seen so many “adults” calling other Americans names just because they exercised their right to vote?” asks Jen from New Hampshire.
u We have to find and celebrate commonalities, offers Molly of Santa Fe. “Emphasize the humanitarian elements given by both parties in their speeches, and pray we follow those larger values forward, in politics, and personally.”
u In his election night victory speech, President Barack Obama said, “We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states.” This is a message with practical applications both in the workplace and at home.
u Another takeaway from election night was grace in the face of defeat. Mitt Romney was stoic and dignified during his concession speech. It is a great example of how to behave with graciousness for those feeling the sting this week.
u As for those heard shouting, “Take that, you Mitches,” remember that, as losers by the skin of their teeth, the opposing party’s votes represented almost half of those cast in the election. Each of those voters is now feeling the loss — and, as mentioned before, that likely includes at least a few of your friends and family members.
u “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy as cause for withdrawing from a friend,” said Thomas Jefferson.
I admire my brother’s careful thought about choosing a candidate. Our commonalities will always be greater than our differences, and knowing that makes it easier to reach across the aisle and the table.
Bizia Greene owns the Etiquette School of Santa Fe. Send your comments and conundrums to etiquette@ etiquettesantafe.com or call 988-2070.