Four years ago today, I was elated to see my state had struck down two laws I had bubbled in “No” for the day prior. A few days ago, I was able to take 15 minutes over the lunch hour to register and vote early in the general election. With my Wisconsin ID and bank statement in hand, I was grateful for my state’s decisions four years ago. My voting experience was seamless, efficient, and most importantly, safe. Unfortunately, I can’t guarantee this effortless experience for all. But what I can do is vote with that intention in mind.
I didn’t vote against the marriage or voter ID law for myself, even though I believe I benefit directly and indirectly from both results. I can’t give equal access for a leisurely skyway walk over to the polls, but I can share my positive experience to convince one more voter that it’s worth their time. I can’t guarantee a safe and welcoming polling experience, but I can vote for candidates who make this a priority. Candidates whose rhetoric protects and promotes all American citizens, and encourages every voice to be heard.
Now, that can be easier said than done. Wanting more voter turnout means voters regardless of what bubble they will fill in. Wanting more voices to be heard means voices regardless of if their opinion aligns with yours. Mindsets of a “wasted vote,” or hoping a person doesn’t “cancel out” your vote don’t fit that bill. Deleting Facebook friends for their opinions, avoiding alternative points of view, or shunning certain headlines don’t fit that bill.
Tolerance is being genuinely happy for the involvement of third party voters, voters of one’s opposing party, and voters who will leave the presidential candidate bubbles blank. Because they’re voters. If you want to see tolerance, practice tolerance.
It’s not easy. I think that’s where we’re all the same. For the most part, we all want the same things. It’s human nature to desire, to demand, safety. That’s innately our highest priority- whether to fight or flight (it’s even our first chakra). But how we think our country will remain safe, and what it means to be protected, is incredibly unique to each person. Understanding this doesn’t necessarily solve anything. It’s a simplified view of one issue. But for me, it provides an example of a shared experience with people that I might otherwise think I have nothing in common with.
For me, practicing tolerance calls for talking (and writing) less and listening more. It means not reacting to an opposing opinion, but rather wondering, with curiosity not judgement, what makes someone feel that way. What experiences have they had that I haven’t? For example, Trump’s recent stance on minorities in Minnesota wouldn’t gain traction if it resonated with no one.
We all have our individual lens through which we see the world. Because these recent comments don’t align with my opinions and values, it can be difficult to accept that point of view. But tolerance doesn’t need to be silence, which is why it’s just as important for it to be made known when a comment or speech does not represent the worldview of a person, group, or community, as Betsy Hodges, Al Franken, R.T. Rybak, and others have done.
What’s helped me (a news junkie who tries to also keep her heart rate below 60 bpm) is remembering that my vote counts, the vote of that loud-person-on-Facebook-you-can’t-remember-where-you-met-but-are-for-some-reason-FB-friends-because-they-wished-you-a-happy-birthday-once counts, but there’s also a lot more that counts outside of the voting booth and on days other than November 8.
It’s easier than ever this year to be an informed local voter, a simple google search of “What’s on my ballot,” will fill you in on what names to prepare for. If there’s something that is an essential outcome for you after this election, think of how you can be involved in that on a local level. And if you wish this election season’s climate was more tolerant, less divisive, and more balanced, let that start with you.