Put your boots on, Election Day is just the beginning

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For many of us, the end of Election Day comes with sighs of relief.

Whether or not our candidate made it into office, or our proposition was passed, the tension in the air seems to have dissipated, the way it does after a big exam or a talk with the boss about a promotion. It does not matter as much that it went your way as it does that it is finally over.

I have had friends from both sides of the aisle dreaming of Wednesday morning for two weeks.

For many of us, the end of Election Day comes with sighs of relief.

Whether or not our candidate made it into office, or our proposition was passed, the tension in the air seems to have dissipated, the way it does after a big exam or a talk with the boss about a promotion. It does not matter as much that it went your way as it does that it is finally over.

I have had friends from both sides of the aisle dreaming of Wednesday morning for two weeks.

Sure, we will live with the effects of Tuesday, Nov. 6 for the next few years, at least, as a nation and as individual communities. But there is nothing else we can do about it now.

The people have spoken.

For journalists – and, I would argue, for all citizens – however, the fight is just beginning. You see, now comes the hard part. Now we have to live with each other.

Fallen soldier Maj. Brent Taylor was welcomed home on Election Day. He was killed in an insider attack.

Shrined in the dark hours of morning, Taylor’s widow addressed those who came to receive her husband’s coffin.

“I personally cannot find words adequate to tell you all that I feel as I stand here this morning by the dawn’s early light,” Jennie Taylor said. “And so I echo the words someone recently shared with me, Brent may have died on Afghan soil but he died for the success of freedom and democracy in both of our countries.”

Taylor was present during Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections on Oct. 20, their first in eight years, where more than 170 people were killed or wounded during bombings and rocket attacks during the first day of voting.

Taylor’s wife said her husband told her that the high voter turnout for that election, despite the violence, was a success for Afghanistan and for the cause of human freedom.

“It seems only fitting that Brent, who in death now represents so much more than anything, something so much greater than any of our own individual lives, has come home to U.S. soil in a flag-draped casket on our election day,” said Jennie Taylor.

Taylor himself had encouraged friends to vote in a recent Facebook post before his death.

“As the USA gets ready to vote in our own election next week, I hope everyone back home exercises their precious right to vote,” he said, “And that whether the Republicans or the Democrats win, that we all remember that we have far more as Americans that unites us than divides us.”

All day, on Tuesday, I watched my friends share memes on Facebook, comparing this election to the last.

One showed a picture of Harrison Ford dressed as a professor in The Lost Ark followed by a picture of Indy later in the movie, covered in sweat and fighting for his life. “How I voted in 2016 vs. how I voted in 2018,” the caption read.

The sense of urgency, the desperation, the need for change have all increased and it made me realize just how tired Americans are.

The Blue Wave is rolling. The Red Voters are literally sticking to their guns.

Is there a place where we can all safely meet in the middle?

A friend of mine shared a Thomas Jefferson quote: “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”

She said she no longer believes this, that she is more willing to cut people out of her life now than she was four, or even two years ago.

I can understand her frustration.

East County just elected a man facing criminal charges.

But it is more complicated than that, I understand.

Although I could never put my faith in Duncan Hunter Jr. again, given the charges he faces for embezzling campaign funds, I know that he would represent my political leanings well in congress.

His opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, sounds exactly like the kind of politician I would like to see in Washington – genuine, bipartisan, open-minded and sincere. He has a gentleness and down-to-earth quality that makes him endearing, and yet I know that his views on many important issues are very different from mine.

So I have been torn between the politician and the policies, my personal values and my political ones.

I know I am not alone.

The problem is that the world is much more black and white for some of our friends and neighbors and they do not like that there are those of us who are still swimming in the gray.

I do not need to say that we are polarized as a nation. It goes unsaid that there is a great divide between us.

But, you see, that is why I love Election Day. It brought us all together.

No one at my polling place asked me who I was voting for, they were just glad I was out there with them. There was a sense of pride and teamwork.

This is how democracy works. We voice our dissent through a ballot box, not with bombs and rockets.

Our country may be mired in a myriad of messes, but no one had to fear for their lives going to the polls this week.

There is a lot of work to do going forward, and I think a lot of that work for us as communities involves sitting down and listening to the other side. Clearly, we are not understanding each other.

The search for common ground must take the forefront or all our other battle lines will prove to be useless.

Besides, we are only fighting our brothers.

Blood has been spilled so we could disagree in peace and safety. More than that, men and women in uniform have served our nation faithfully – given their time, and their physical and mental health – so that we can live every day in peace and safety, having the hard conversations and doing our honest-to-goodness best to move forward.

So let us take up the grand mantle of citizenship with pride and determination, gentleness and charity, and let us make change.

Let us make a genuine attempt to respond to the issues facing our nation in good faith, reaching across the aisle, not to compromise on our values but to search for common ground.

Maybe the distance between the factions of American politics is too great to be crossed in the next two years, but Election Day is a good place to start.

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