I voted and it changed my life.
Published Nov 6, 2020
This is an update to a myopic article I wrote a few days ago.
It's been a long three days. Not because we're still waiting on the results of the election – because honestly, I've kind of stopped thinking about it. My mind has been on something deeper and more personal than politics and parties.
Three days ago I wrote about who I voted for and why. It was a passionate explanation, something I wrote in one sitting when feeling particularly patriotic, channeling the bold men who shaped our nation. I had seen many proudly sharing their own respective votes and thought this could be a good time to do the same. I knew my vote was an unpopular one in the tech industry, but with the power of words perhaps I could frame the thought process I went through.
I assumed there would be disagreement – this is politics after all and disagreement is built in. But the place where we all grow is in discussion, and especially in listening. The important aspects of a meaningful conversation. I didn't think it would be too bad. Maybe I'd have a few good conversations and we'd all grow.
I was wrong. At first there were a few replies like "Okay, but what about $controversial_issue...?". I began to decide what format I could use to listen and discuss. But then the flood gates of social media broke loose and I was drowned in a firehose of hate and vitriol.
My name, whatever little it was worth and whatever good I had done over the last 10 years on Twitter, was thoroughly burnt to the ground. Negative emotions, adjectives, and labels reserved only for enemies were rounded up and dropped onto me like an atom bomb.
For the next 24 hours I was in a haze. My wife held my hand as I sat, stunned. For a long time. I did my best to let it glance off mentally because most it of wasn't personal — couldn't be personal — as I knew precious little of the names. But then a few became personal. And then a few more. And then the firehose started to spill over to friends, colleages, and various professional acquaintances in the web world – people who I've known for a long time but never talked politics or religion with. Their association with me started to take an undeserved beating.
Up to this point the best thing to do seemed to be to lay low and ride it out, but as the hours passed and I spent more time in reflection, my perspectives and priorities began to shift. I could feel nothing but empathy and love for the people dumping hate on me. More and more I wanted to hear each person's story, to listen and understand them as an individual and learn how those experiences drive their emotionally charged behavior.
I accept the fact that when you make a bold statement publicly, you give up the right to be understood. That being said, I regret the stand I chose to make and the format in which I made it.
I made two grave mistakes. May you learn from me.
I should not have implied that any party (especially the leader thereof) accurately represents my faith – even with the clarification that it didn't except that specific platform statements were more in line than the other's, was a mistake. It was too nuanced and prone to misunderstanding.
Given enough (or any) scrutiny, no one — myself especially included — will pass the test for being a perfect and righteous person. There has only ever been one person who ever lived that met that critera, and he was a middle eastern man born 2000 years ago. Every day I wake I have an opportunity to become ever so slightly more like him, and less like who I was yesterday.
This man did not hate, he did not discriminate who he shared his time and life with, and he allowed himself to be misunderstood or hated by many as he did it with humility and love. I would be proud to be misunderstood and hated for his name's sake, but not for a political party or any one man inside it.
I've spent most of my life avoiding politics, and have abstained from voting in the past. I do not represent the aggregate beliefs of any political party, and find it increasingly hard to feel contributing to the greater good by choosing one in today's highly polarized climate.
For me, I have a feeling this will have been my one and only public political statement. It has cut me off from relationships that were far more valuable to me than the casting of one ballot in one election. I cannot live and share my faith in the creator and his son Jesus through the lens of imperfect people, political parties, and policies. Going forward I will choose people over politics every time.
A blog post on election day was the wrong tactic for my first and only moment engaging in politics. If I could go back and do it again, here's what I wish I had done. I could have spent the few months prior to election day having open conversations on Zoom, Skype, Hangouts, with anyone willing to discuss what what is important and significant in today's climate and culture, and how we might be able to make positive change.
That would have been huge growth opportunity for myself, a chance to improve my ability to discuss and listen, empathize with viewpoints different than my own — the more different the better. It could have been a net positive outcome instead of a polarizing one.
I now believe this is the only way we can solve the highly polarized situation we find our culture in today. If we keep drawing harder and more bold battle lines, it can only lead towards violence. But instead if we each can take time to engage in dialog, and with patience listen to each other without trying to "win" the conversation, we may find new ways forward to meet our mutual goals. We each can affect change in the world around us — and how much more powerful is that change when it's from a place of respect and understanding instead of assumptions?
My New Focus
If anyone is willing to have a conversation with me, a man who stands nothing to gain but understanding, empathy, and with enough time maybe a new (or old) friend, I am here and I am willing to make this a regular part of my day or week. Consider that a formal invitation. There were a few who reached out with this genuine desire, and I thank you for that and look forward to our conversations.
I am hopeful that there are some willing to spend their time in a similar manner. This is my hope for America – that there are still some willing to spend their time to discuss, to listen, and to seek understanding. If there are even a few, I can see a future for a nation that isn't filled with infighting but with love. I faithfully look forward to it.