It has been two days since Americans cast their ballots for the various public offices around the country. On election day I was in Oklahoma to guest conduct the NorthEast District Honor Choir in Tulsa. Wow! What a group of outstanding young musicians! I stayed a couple days to recruit some of those musicians.
Before I drive home I decided I needed some time to relax and decompress with some coffee. As I sit at a Starbucks in Bartlesville, OK reflecting on what has transpired over the course of this election cycle I am struck by how divisive American politics have become. Of course this isn’t any type of groundbreaking statement. I have personally stayed out of the fray. I was dissatisfied with all four on the ballot. After casting my advance ballot, a friend asked me who I voted for and I said, “the *&$% liar.” Then she asked me again who I voted for. My feeling is that I personally do not want to use social media to discuss politics. As with other written communication, so much gets lost without being able to look into someone’s eyes, read body language, and hear the inflection in their voice.
I have been so successful in keeping my political leanings off of social media that a colleague recently commented that he just assumed I was a conservative republican. That was like a knife to the heart of a guy who joined Amnesty International in high school to support the fight against apartheid in South Africa, who has been personally supportive of his friends in the LGBTQ community, who actively participated in a sting operation alongside the ALCU while in college to bring to justice a business in Salina that was practicing racial discrimination, and who has been a registered democrat his entire adult life (save for that one time I registered republican so I could vote against someone in a primary).
Then it hit me. I have conservative friends who also thought apartheid in South Africa was horrible, who love and respect people who are LGBTQ, and who believe in racial equality. I am not a conservative republican and I do not envision myself ever trending in that direction. But there are a lot people I love and respect who are conservative republicans.
Taking time to reflect on the way we have treated each other caused me to think about some things I want to improve about myself. Below are some of the things on which I have reflected. I’ll probably add to the list along the way.
- I pledge to do a better job demonstrating my love and support for people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and others who have been disenfranchised or marginalized in our society. This includes police officers, our military, and others who I know have felt marginalized and targeted at times.
- I pledge to try to talk less and listen more. This is going to be difficult for me. VERY difficult. And please remember I used the word try.
- I pledge to do a better job of demonstrating my love and support of people with whom I disagree. All people. If they allow me, I want to do a better job explaining why I believe what I believe in hopes of changing their minds. But not on Facebook.
- I pledge to show respect for President-elect Donald Trump. He was not my candidate but he will be my President.
- I pledge to be respectful of those who support President-elect Trump. I intend to be respectful and open-minded when I speak with those who support him.
- I pledge to fight tooth and nail against him or anyone else who attempts to marginalize or oppress any group of people. BUT, I also pledge to not make assumptions without facts and to respectfully disagree rather than make things personal.
- I pledge to stand up to those who those who try to bully others because of what they believe. Everyone. Conservatives. Liberals. Everyone.
- Finally, I pledge to use music, and my position as a leader of musicians as a way to bring people together.
If your first thought after reading any of these statements was to think of a rebuttal, (but they didn’t respect President Obama, or but being gay is a sin) you probably missed the point. If your first thought was that I’m just trying to please everyone then you’re on the right track. However, I’m not trying to please everyone as much as love and respect everyone.
In the end, I’m not offering this as advice to you personally. I’ll do me and you can do you. But I have to tell you that after making the decision to work on these things, my coffee tastes better, my heart rate is lower, and my drive home is going to be much more relaxing.