It’s Election day.  Likely by now you’ve either already voted or are heading to the polls and know who you’re voting for.

This post isn’t about convincing you who you should or should not vote for, that’s your decision, your right.

The title of this post is deliberate because it has two meanings.

One meaning for “The other side of the ballot” is for those who chose to vote for a candidate other than yours.
We used to see them as the ‘other candidate’ or ‘the opposition’ or ‘the other side’.  Increasingly, and certainly this year, it seems they have now become ‘the enemy’.  Elections have always been messy and emotional.  We all have our opinions and it’s easy to get passionate when we have a discussion with someone who disagrees with us.  This year feels different.

It went far beyond mud slinging and became a barrage of misinformation, name calling, accusations, and down right lies.  One could argue which canditate’s side was worse but it was mostly those who supported their candidate who took pieces of unsubstantiated information and spread them rapidly and with malice across social media.  Reports from so called journalistic websites were taken as gospel when they had no basis in the truth, or very little at best.  The candidates, of course, did not help.

So here we are.  A divided people with all our beliefs and hopes riding on our ‘side’ to win, but only one side can win.  So now what?
If you’re on the losing side what happens now?  Sadly, if history is any indicator, you will immediately begin a new barrage of complaints, false accusations, memes spewing hate, calls for impeachment and all manner of ways in which to vindicate the painful feeling of loss by attacking that ‘other side of the ballot’.

The challenge we face as a nation, however, is that progress, true progress in making our lives, our country, our world a better place to live cannot happen through division.  Don’t get me wrong, public discourse, debating, others points of view are healthy and necessary to ensure that we don’t get too ‘one sided’.  Debate, however, was never about tearing the other side down.  True debate is meant to inform, to educate, to put all information on the table so that the best possible conclusion can be reached from all the information available.  Does that sound like what we have seen as ‘debate’ in recent history to you?

If we each stay firmly entrenched on our ‘side of the ballot’, unflinchingly resolute that it’s our way or no way at all, without room for debate, compromise, partnership, or a willingness to work together as a team to find solutions to our challenges we will not move forward.

Regardless of who wins the Presidency in the election tonight we must find a way to support one another, to find common ground for working and talking and understanding each other. As a military veteran I was taught to respect the office of the President even if I disagree’d with the individual holding it. The challenge for all of us, win or lose, is to find a way to come together respectfully and to work together to help each other, not tear each other down.

The second meaning for ‘The other side of the ballot’ is about tomorrow, November 9, 2016.  We will wake up to a new day and a new elected President.  One side will have won, the other lost and yet regardless of which ‘side’ you were on, the fact remains that when these two primary candidates were chosen they reflected the two most reviled candidates in the history of our country.  Now, if you are a staunch supporter of your candidate you find it hard to understand this, but the fact is that across this great nation, history will show that no two candidates were more disliked as Presidential candidates than these two and people are angry.

They’re angry at the process, at the establishment, the status quo of politics, the lying, the name calling, the ugliness of this campaign, the rumors, the supposed illegal activities, they’re angry and sick of the whole thing.  Whether it was the mess of the primaries and how these two candidates ended up as their party’s nominees or the ugliness of the debates, or any number of reasons people are tired of politics as usual in a way we haven’t seen or heard before.  Thousands upon thousands of people turned out for rallies and in support of one candidate or another or one issue or another across the country.

And once again I ask you, now what?
For that is the most important question we should be asking once this election is over.  We have a new President, like them or not, and we must find a way to work together if we have any hope of achieving forward progress in this nation, but now what?  As a member of the electorate, as a voting citizen of this country, what are you going to do now?  Will you simply go about your day complaining that your candidate lost and the whole system is broken?  Will you go about your day smiling and blissfully content because your candidate won and now everything will be okay?

Or, will you perhaps remember the challenges we have faced as a whole during this election cycle.  Will you remember the anger and frustration, the broken promises and lies.  Will you continue to raise your voice in discussion (polite and respectful discussion being the most effective) with your neighbors, your appointed officials, your state representatives, to begin finding a solution to the mess that has become our political system?

Complaining and grousing about this election is, and was, too late.  Once the hot mess of this cycle started it was far too late to stand up and say “hey, this whole thing is broken and needs to be fixed’ with any expectation that change could actually happen.  But tomorrow, on the first day after elections, that is the right time to begin effecting change for the next election.  You didn’t like the way the primaries were determined? then let’s find a better way.  Don’t like how our electorate is chosen? get involved and find a solution that makes it better.  Tired of the party system? start a conversation about alternative solutions that can viably work and make our process better.

Oh I know, you’ve heard this all before and the resounding answer is, “it’s impossible”.  Politics are controlled by the elite and no one person can make a difference or effect change.

Really?

Tell that to that small group of colonies who wanted to start this whole experiment in the first place.  And they weren’t trying to just change how an election could be, they were starting a whole new country.

There are countless stories of people who started with nothing, from nothing, and achieved greatness in all manner of ways.  If you want to simply complain and do nothing you have that right, we live in a free country.  But what if you could find solutions, and be part of the change that helps this country continue to evolve, to change, to adapt, to learn from our mistakes and get better?  Isn’t that what we teach our children?  Isn’t that how we strive to live our own lives?  Why should it be any different for our country?  Change won’t happen by itself and it won’t happen simply by complaining about it. But for change to happen at all we must come together, different points of view and all, to work towards a future we can all be proud of.  I’m not suggesting we will all end up with similar views, as I said, differing points of view are important.  What I am saying is that we must find a way to disagree and still work together instead of simply shouting and blaming each other which leaves us nowhere at all.

Tomorrow we will all be on the other side of the ballot.
The question is what do we do now?