Photo: Nathan Glenn

It’s Inauguration Week, and to say there’s a little anxiety and turmoil over this change in political power and what it means for our future is possibly an understatement. I’ve struggled with my own feelings in reaction to this past election season and what it means for our future. Am I disappointed in the election? Yes, but I was disappointed months ago when the primaries were over, and I saw the two candidates we were down to. The other thing is I often find myself split in my beliefs. I was raised in a Midwest Republican household; however, as a child with a mind of my own, I’m sure it doesn’t surprise my family much that as an adult I consider myself more of a democrat. I see and view the world through a different lens than they do. That’s okay because I have never minded being the “different” one.

I support the Democratic Party because they best represent one of my biggest beliefs. Equality for all. With that comes love and acceptance for all. However, there are issues my republican roots still agree with. I support the second amendment right; however, I believe we can keep our guns and have better regulations in place. However, a person kills people, not a gun. I believe in our right to freedom of speech; however, the hypocrisy of how one side will cry out about the other side exercising that right drives me crazy. I do not support the burning of our flag, but feel that everyone has the right to protest peacefully something they do not agree with. I believe we need to take care of one another. I know of good people that have temporarily benefited from the help of government programs when they’ve been in a tough place, however, there does need to be better accountability and reform to eliminate the abuses of these systems. I feel that I fall in a middle ground somewhere between the polarized division of beliefs that seem to be dividing our beloved country of late.

When it all comes down to it, I do not believe any one politician is going to make our lives great. It is in our hands how great we make our lives here in America. I’m trying really hard, for now, to give Trump the benefit of the doubt. I’ll be the bigger person than those that whined and cried so much about Obama but now suddenly want us all to work together. I will try to limit my mumbling of hypocrisy about that, and I’ll give him a chance. However if having him as a leader has convinced people it is now acceptable to discriminate, bully, and intimidate people of color, other religions, sexual orientations, females, honestly anyone that is not a wealthier white male Christian I will speak up against that because that is NOT an America I support. That is where I will wholeheartedly exercise my first amendment right.

People can protest and we can agree to disagree. But hiding behind a computer screen to tear each other down whether we’re liberals or conservatives has to stop. I see hypocrisy happening on both sides. People need to educate themselves before they share anything and everything that is passed around the internet without any validity of truth. The sharing of material that is offensive to a group of people and or assumes things about groups of people is not going to create a better America. Everyone’s story, everyone’s experience is unique and different. Let’s go out of our way for once to understand someone else’s point of view, but do it without tearing down and mocking the other side’s concerns. We should all work on building a little more compassion in listening to one another’s opposing views.

I went into work the day after the election results in one of the most diverse places in the country. I gave my classes of racially, religiously, economically diverse students the opportunity to write and reflect on the results of the election and the current issues our country faces. They wrote letters we titled “Dear America” and as they were peer reviewing in their groups I overheard a group of three boys (one white, one black, and one Hispanic immigrant student) discussing their concerns with immigration, jobs, and work ethic. These were three sixteen-year-old boys. They weren’t yelling, they weren’t insulting each other. They didn’t completely agree with each other, but they LISTENED to each other. They gave each other a chance to speak. Could we all learn a little something from this?

My five year old asked me last night, “Mommy, do you think bad people think they’re good and us that think we’re good are bad to them?” She then went on with her slightly disoriented five-year-old old way to explain to me- the adult- that the people we see as bad or in the wrong think that they’re good too, and might see us that think we’re right or good as wrong. Who’s to say what is the right or wrong way to see the world at times? We all get tied up in only wanting to see the world through our own lens of experience. There’s not just one wrong or right way to see the world or fix the problems of our society; there has to be a compromise and a willingness to work together in the gray middle area where what’s right and wrong isn’t so polarized.

Am I happy about the results of the election? No. Are there things that are going in our society that upset me right now? Yes. Are there issues I am concerned about for our future? Yes. But we all have a choice every day, no matter who is President- in how we go about being the change we want to see in the world.

Here is where I choose to serve, here is where I decide day-in and day-out to give my life a greater purpose, to try to enact change for tomorrow. Here in the classroom, I can teach our next generation acceptance and compassion. Here with my own children, I can raise them to be more open minded and compassionate to others and the world. Here through my writing, I can tell you what I see and hear and learn every day. Because I learn every day from people that are different than me.

Is it hard to do something about the change we hope to see in the world? Yes! I have different political views and behaviors than my family that I sometimes feel the need to defend. I work with challenging students that come from all varied backgrounds of life. I speak my mind when people would maybe prefer I just shut up (possibly like right now) but I do it because I want to sleep at night with a clear conscious. I want to model a life of purpose to my kids. I want my kids to know how to live a life of good even if their good looks slightly different than mine just as mine is different than my parents but know that doesn’t make one of us any better than the other (something we all seem to be forgetting lately as we want to attack each other’s views and perceptions.) I remember years ago sitting in my assistant principal’s office talking about a student her and I had worked with and expressing our frustrations that things weren’t looking so promising for him. She told me how I could do my best but I couldn’t save them all. That’s the best any of us can do. Lead by positive example and we will change some things, probably not all, but we can all do a little something to make a better world for our future. So yes, speak up, take a stand about the things you believe in but also listen to one another and do everything with compassion for one another.

We, the people, are what truly determine the greatness of America. No one but ourselves can make our life great. We build a better America in our homes and in our communities. Be a positive example. That’s what I’ll be doing for the next four years.

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