One of the best bits of blogging advice I’ve received is to “write when it hurts.” I wanted to stay out of it. I had planned to stay quiet. But it hurts to see our country like this, so I write.

It has been an unsettling few days since the election. I live in a red county in a late-night, too close-to-call blue state. It took some serious looking to find a sign without Trump’s name on it. So the results were a surprise, but not a shock.

What shocked me was the reaction of some people. The president-elect has said things he shouldn’t have, but the outcome of this election should never have been a green light for bad behavior. I’ve heard first hand stories of frightening experiences on both sides of this. A small percentage of individuals are spewing hate with threats and taunting. There is real fear where there wasn’t a week ago.i-voted-with-text

So here we are, 25% of the country voted for Clinton, 25% voted for Trump, and another 49% didn’t participate in the process. I suspect some of those that didn’t cast a vote are now among the ones casting stones. Disenfranchised and angry, yet doing nothing to make anything better.

I’ve done a lot of reading over the past days. I wanted to gather some perspective on this division. I skipped the major publications in favor of blogs. I read a post on white privilege, that blamed me and everyone else for f-ing up the election. I read a post by a female agriculture scientist on how educated those rural folks really are and why many of them voted for Trump. I read a post by a Muslim professor, a post by black women married to a white cop, a post by farmer, a post by a scared immigrant, a post by a homeschooling mom, a post by a female divorce attorney who compared these times to divorce proceedings, and then there were the posts on wearing safety pins. I exchanged messages with a Jewish immigrant who supports Trump.

Here’s what I learned: a lot of good people voted for both candidates.

If you were with her, you can’t understand how everyone else wasn’t too. If you voted for him you likely voted for change, not chaos. Let us not be such passionate democrats or republicans that we forget to be passionate about people.

A lot of dangerous assumptions are being made on both sides and it will get us nowhere. There are those who voted for Trump on some backward agenda, but I believe that is more exception than rule. So while an ignorant, hateful few think this is their time – I believe the majority will stand up and show them their message has no place.

When President Bill Clinton looked into the camera and said he did not have sexual relations with “that woman” that marginalized women too. His bad behavior while president was not a free pass to married men across the country to cheat on their wives. It was his bad behavior. When an angry white teen paints racist graffiti, let’s not assume all white teens are racist. Likewise, when an angry black man burns a flag, let’s not assume all blacks disrespect America. Let’s not give any one person that kind of power, the president-elect included.

We live in an amazing country. I believe there are far more like-minded, good people than there are bad. I believe we as a people and a country are a work in progress. We and it are flawed and clearly there is room for improvement.

It starts with each of us. In our homes we must teach our children love and not fear. In our communities we must start conversations with people who look different than ourselves. We should make contributions to society with our time and resources. Those were our responsibilities before the election and they are perhaps more important now. It starts with conversations around kitchen tables and in classrooms and churches. That is where the real groundwork is laid for a brighter future.

I volunteer at our son’s elementary school each week. It always reminds me that hate is learned, for there are kids of all colors happily going about the business of being kids. They study, play, eat, and laugh together. They seem to understand what many have forgotten, kindness and acceptance. In a society where everyone is assigned a label, they still see people as

My hope would be that some day we are simply Americans. We are no longer groups described by color, religion, education level, gender, sexual preference, income, etc., etc. Simply Americans. We are individuals who have unique experiences that influence how we think, act, and yes vote. Those perspectives don’t always fit neatly into an assumed group.

I choose to be hopeful. I hope that Trump’s ego encourages him to build a successful legacy. I hope his lack of political experience brings fresh ideas. I hope he puts intelligent, thoughtful experts in positions of power. I hope those experts include people of color and women. I hope he gets the open mind and opportunity to lead that Secretary Clinton suggested. He surely doesn’t want to fail and no one should wish that he does. I hope for a peaceful transfer of power. I will pray for our leaders to lead well. I will continue to put my faith in a power higher than the highest office in our nation.

Together we can make America great, but only together.