So, as I sit here, it is November 14th, 2016. A portion of the United States, my homeland of all 38 years of my life, is beside themselves because of the decision our electoral college made just less than a week ago to elect Donald Trump president.
I won't go into my personal feelings in this post, as that sort of thing is not hard to find literally ANYWHERE right now, but I do have some things to say.
First off, this is my first (ever?) cross-post to Facebook. Hello former co-workers, family members, high-school friends, and others that I have not spoken to in ages. That's my fault. As @polotek pointed out on Twitter, my social network of choice (that's a double-entendre, right there): I have isolated myself from many of you for too long, because I simply did not know how to talk to you about important issues on which we disagreed. And because I siloed myself amongst like-minded people, I was shocked last Tuesday night. Many people—people who have been less isolated, whether by choice or not—were not at all shocked, though perhaps disappointed, disillusioned, dispirited, or outright enraged.
So I'm here. On purpose. To talk. To listen.
Not to try to tell you to vote like me in the future. Not to blame you for voting how you did. Not to tell you how you're wrong, or find faults in your way of thinking. I do hope that we can try to fairly discuss things; that our politics can all be out on the table. I will open my mind and try to be changeable if you will. Regardless, actually, I hope. And before you label me as "wishy-washy" or "lacking conviction," let me tell you why I want to try to open my mind.
There is no perfect policy
Let's start with something small… like a curfew policy in your household. Let's say you're a parent, and you have a 13-yr-old who wants to go out with friends to see a movie. You now, if you haven't already, have to come up with a curfew policy. You decide that your child needs to be home by 11 PM.
Done. Great work, policy-maker.
Fast-forward 6 months. Your child has honored this curfew, despite plenty of opportunity and temptation to break it. They've been working hard in extra-curricular activities, and their grades are great. All-around this is a great kid. And now they ask you if they can extend curfew, just this once, because there's a church/school/whatever-wholesome event that goes to 1 AM.
You've already found an exception to your curfew policy.
And then your 15-yr-old, who has had the same curfew, and has broken it many, many times, though not by a lot, and mostly because this kid isn't good at planning ahead, asks if they can go to a party that same night, and asks for the same curfew as their younger sibling: 1 AM. This child's grades are okay, but not great. This one doesn't seem to have "figured it out," yet.
Do you let the well-behaved child go to the church event until 1 AM and not let the older child go to the party until 1 AM?
This policy, its exceptions, discussions of its "spirit" and "letter" are getting complicated already. And it's just a curfew policy in your household of 4.
Scale that up to a whole nation, now.
I can draw a circle, with a compass and pencil, with, say, a 3-inch diameter, that is, for all intents and purposes, perfect. To the naked eye it is flawless.
It is decidedly not, however, actually perfect.
If we scaled that penciled circle up as many times as we just scaled our curfew policy, from a policy designed for two to a national policy, you could build whole cities in the breaks in the line where the lead missed a valley between paper fibers, and the circle was broken. Mighty rivers could flow between sections of the line and where they should be, had the compass not slipped a little, or the pencil tip worn down unevenly, and where they ended up on the paper.
In fact, in the real world—in the real universe—there are no actually perfect circles. The idea of a "circle" is just that—an idea. They don't actually exist. Any circle we try to draw, any circle we observe in nature is just an ellipse, with very close vertices, and with imperfect arcs.
I feel the same is true of political policies. There is no perfect policy. And when you're operating at the scale that even state governments are, let alone national governments, little mistakes have a major impact. Policies designed to reward well-behaved citizens can easily create a vicious cycle that prevents overlooked citizens from breaking even; forget about getting ahead. Policies design to correct badly-behaved citizens can all too easily impact all of us, and all too often end up targeting specific sets of marginalized citizens, intentionally or no.
Am I saying we should give up on writing policy? No, not at all.
But I am saying that although we have put people on the moon, created pocket-sized computers that are literally millions of times faster than the computers used to put those people on the moon, and seem to be in the neighborhood of achievements like self-driving cars and manned missions to Mars, we have not, yet, created, and never will create a perfect policy. We've been working on "democracy" for thousands of years. We're not going to suddenly perfect it.
No perfect politician
Likewise, there are no perfect politicians. This seems a little more obvious, especially this year. So, so many people were voting for the "lesser of two evils." But it's a point worth making.
Jesus did not run for the office of president this year (hat tip to Science Mike for that thought).
So however excited you were about your candidate, please, please understand that he or she was not the "correct" choice. Again, I am not trying to force my liberal arts "everything is grey" thinking on you. I'm not arguing that they were all equal (for better or for worse). I'm arguing that, as sound as your logic may have been, you did not corner the market on "truth" by picking your candidate. There are valid reasons to have voted for any of these candidates.
Now, there were also valid reasons to not vote for any of these candidates.
This is why none of them was the "correct" choice. Jesus didn't run. Imperfect people did. Your measure of how good a choice any one of them was is not "correct." It's your best guess. It may be a very, very educated guess, but it's still a guess. We don't know these people (if you actually do know one of these candidates and you're reading this, please do reach out 🤓).
No perfect politics
So what are we left with? I think we're left with a spectrum of options. On the one end of the spectrum, you have a very conservative way to look at the world. On the other end you have a very liberal way to look at the world. Most people move toward the conservative end of that spectrum over the course of their life, no matter where they started.
Where's the right place to plant yourself?
There isn't one.
Again, I'm not espousing a relativistic "there's no wrong answer" mentality, here.
Borrowing from basically all of the pastors at my church, what I am saying is that we have to learn to live with a "healthy tension." I believe there are times when the conservatives have the best idea of how to handle a situation, because a conservative answer is the best answer. And I believe there are times when a liberal answer is best. And moderates, don't get too excited; this doens't mean you're "right," either, but you may be closest to this idea of living in healthy tension.
No one has a monopoly on the truth. We need people from both ends of the spectrum—hell, from all along the spectrum, and we need them working together. That's the closest we can get to the truth, the best way to bring the co-vertices of our ellipse closer to try to draw circle, at a national scale.
So you, dear reader, whoever you are, are someone I need to listen to. I can tell you right now that I respect you. It doesn't matter who you voted for; I respect you, because we all deserve dignity and respect, and I do believe that we are all doing our best with what we've been dealt. So as much as I may disagree with you, I do respect you. And I want to talk about this stuff. I want people from both sides of the aisle (also, can we get a few more aisles, while we're at it?) uniting to call their representatives and voice their concerns. When we can work together to find policies that work for all of us, and politicians that can work together to represent all of us, that is when America will be great.