So, were you happy or disappointed with the results of Tuesday’s election? I imagine a lot of the water cooler talk in your office Wednesday morning focused on the level of satisfaction over the final tallies. I'm in the political minority in my office, and I take my share of ribbing and I do quite a bit of dishing out a jab or two to my co-workers. But it’s all in good fun and feelings are never hurt (I hope) because we can find other ways to come together and our lives are more than our political beliefs. Plus, I find great joy in hearing the opinions of others and look for opportunities to learn something I wouldn't learn if I stayed in my little bubble.
And that’s the beauty of America and its political system. Whether you went to bed Tuesday elated or deflated, you woke up Wednesday morning in a relatively unchanged world. To be sure, Democrats gnashed their teeth and foretold the end of the world as we know it Tuesday night in exactly the same way Republicans did in 2008. But I wasn’t surprised to find I was able to purchase my Pumpkin Spice Latte Wednesday morning and no one tried to stop me. You can bet if anyone did tell me that I, because of my political beliefs, could not get my pumkiny caffeine fix, I would have taken to Twitter and let my fellow Americans know all about it and they would been appalled. Because that doesn’t happen here. You may take a little ribbing from your friends who don’t share your beliefs, but I hope y’all are still friends even though one of you wasn’t quite as happy post-election. Large portions of our world are not like that. People suffer far more than caffeine deprivation for their political beliefs in many, many countries.
I watch movies like Escape from New York or read books like 1984 and think, “thank God there’s nothing like that here.” And there isn’t. You may feel like we live in a police state or as though Big Brother is always watching you (I freely admit I subscribe to the belief that just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you), but America is pretty darn free. You come and go as you wish for the most part, no one showed up on your doorstep to tell you your family would be killed if you voted, you actually had the choice not to vote, your grocery store almost always has your favorite type of Chex Mix in stock and you’re a little peeved when it doesn’t.
So it’s not surprising that we as Americans forget there are a lot, I mean like A LOT, of folks who are stunned by how much freedom we enjoy. I do it all the time. We all do. But think about this: According to Thisisafricaonline.com, 500 people died in 2011 as a direct result of violence on Election Day in Nigeria. That’s 500 people who actively sought the right to vote and were killed as a result. When’s the last time you saw soldiers at your polling place or someone threatened your family if you voted? I’m willing to bet never. This quote from the same source, neatly sums it up, “Elections provide the most direct link to outbreaks of political violence across Africa….” Yet, people still strive to vote and hope to make a difference. We complain when there’s a line at the polling site or use rain as an excuse not to vote.
But back to my original point that Wednesday was the same as Tuesday--I’m not saying your vote doesn’t make a difference. Plenty of races throughout the States have hung on a couple votes. According to Douglas County, Nevada’s list of elections (not sure why someone in Douglas County, NV felt compelled to compile this info, but glad he or she did), a Walton, KY city council seat wound up in a tie because one of the nominees didn't want to wake his wife, who hadn't voted. He lost the coin toss. Bet breakfast was awkward. So, obviously every vote counts, but the fact is we as Americans are blessed to live in a country that has almost no true political turmoil. And whether you were saddened or gladdened by Tuesday’s results, the sun did indeed rise Wednesday morning.
So, take this is a call to be nice to your fellow man (or woman). Continue to do things that make us American: Vote because you can. Get your Pumpkin Spiced Latte before they go away for another year. Let another car in front of you in traffic. Buy the wrapping paper when your co-worker’s kid comes around selling it. And most importantly, remember, even though we get riled up by the pundits' inflammatory predictions and sometimes say things we shouldn’t to each other during election season, our politics do not define who we are as people and that is a really great thing.