As the old chestnut goes, there are three tiny words that every marriage needs to be successful. I’m not talking about I love you. I mean, maybe you’re right.
We are on the precipice of a highly divisive election. I fear that the nation is facing an existential threat no matter who wins. I’m more worried about what happens to the nation because of the election than I am about what any candidate might actually do in office. I have never before this election cycle had the sense that the election would result in violence, but this one looks to be a powderkeg.
I could lay blame in front of both of the front-runner candidates. I think one deserves more than another, but that’s moot. The candidates are a reflection of the rift in our nation. They may have fanned flames, but they didn’t light the matches. Those things which are right and wrong about those candidates came from the people who support them. The losing candidate might fade away from public life, but those people will still be there.
The United States has a history of passionate disagreement, which for us is usually healthy. It doesn’t work unless we remember that we’re on the same side. Even in the case of a candidate who is motivated to destroy us, the people who supported that candidate are all voting for a better nation.
Currently the nation faces a domestic threat greater than any we face from abroad. If we’re not careful, if we’re not thoughtful, if we choose to be divided rather than united, we will have no one but ourselves to blame when this nation burns and our blood is spilt.
It is our sacred responsibility to listen to one another. It is our duty to learn and question rather than lecture and blame. When we see misinformation we must research; we might be the ones who are misinformed. When we offer opposing views, we must take pains to make a case which would persuade rather than an attack or an accusation.
No one wants to admit that they might be wrong. But no one is exempt from that possibility. We’re all more likely to accept something as true if we come to the conclusion ourselves. When seeing a flaw in someone else’s logic, isn’t it more sensible to ask how to reconcile that flaw than to smugly declare their stupidity?
When Abraham Lincoln was faced with a terrible decision during The War Between The States, one of his advisors suggested that they pray that God be on their side. Lincoln replied, «I have no doubt that the Almighty is on the side of right. If we are to pray, let us pray that we are on His side.» It’s probably a misquote; I don’t have a citation to provide. But it illustrates something very important about the very foundation of democratic government: we hope that right makes might, but must not consider the notion that might makes right.
This doesn’t mean we don’t advocate for those things we believe in, or fight for them if we have to. As President Obama has said repeatedly, «don’t boo, vote.» Please do get to the ballot box, even if you don’t vote for a candidate I want; even if you vote for a candidate I think would be a disaster. Please do everything you can to promote your point of view.
That said, if you are going to do that, you must accept the burden of doing everything you can to be right. One is never right because one has stuck to one’s guns and refused to hear others’ arguments. One is right only by having the ability to recognize being wrong, and by having the willingness to change one’s mind. It is no sign of weakness to be wrong. It is a sign of moral and intellectual weakness not to admit to it.
If the election doesn’t go your way, as it of course may, please, I beg, say I hope they are right. In order to do that, you have to say, maybe they are right.
I hope that you are right.