November 27, 2016

From Claire Ranit, Project Director, MARC Grant, Columbia Gorge Health Council

Much of our nation has been rocked recently in the wake of the election. There are intense emotions being felt throughout our community and our nation on both sides of the political aisle.

We are at a pivotal stage in an event that affects every corner of our community.

We are at a pivotal stage in intentionally deciding how we react to this event.

Of all the luxuries we have in the United States, we do not have the luxury of alienating any one group of people; regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, sex, or political beliefs.

Many people are feeling strong emotions they have every right to feel. Everyone has the right to their own true emotions. Everyone is equally as responsible for managing their actions and reactions within those emotions.

I hold my own fears and concerns regarding the election because of who I am and my experiences. But I also have tools at my disposal to help self-regulate when emotions become too strong to handle; things like deep breathing, taking a walk, and meditation among many other practices. I have the power and opportunity to take action to help others and a social responsibility to do so.

Not everyone has been given the opportunity or knowledge to develop these kinds of skills and outlets.  One simple, though sometimes difficult, step we can all take is to make an intentional choice for how we approach an event.

Our default approach as humans is usually “what’s wrong.” For those that did not vote for President Elect Trump, questions are asked like, “how could someone support a man that preaches racism, sexism, bigotry; a man that brags about sexually assaulting women?” For those that did not vote for Hillary Clinton, questions are asked like, “how could someone support a woman that is so corrupt, who caused such a scandal with a private email server and the devastation of Benghazi, someone who is owned by the big corporations?”

These questions may get at the core of our personal confusion but they will not provide us with a true understanding of why our neighbors voted for either candidate.

Instead, I challenge us all to ask “what’s happened.” What have people experienced that led to their voting for either candidate? What living situations, challenges, fears, and hopes affected the casting of their vote?

Looking at the voting results from an Oregon state perspective, 934,631 people voted for Clinton and 742,506 people voted for Trump with a small number of votes going to other party candidates.

As we have the right to our emotions and thoughts we must also afford that right to others, even to those with whom we disagree. If we want to heal the wounds and ever expanding distance developing in the political environment in our country and our community, we must approach the situation from the perspective of “what’s happened.”

Only this will get to the core of the issues.

Only this will provide us the answers we truly seek.

Anything else will only get at the symptoms and if we only address the symptoms, we will not reach a place of healing or understanding. We all have the power and social responsibility to help create a community where all people feel safe, accepted, and understood even if we all do not agree. What will you do with your power?