By the time you read this column, we will have elected a President and new Senators around the country. Just listening to the news and watching the voting lines has been pretty scary. I was a Biden supporter and as I write this column I don’t know who has won the election, what I do know is that we have a big job ahead of us in America no matter who is elected.

We have to assess what being an American is all about. In my lifetime I have never witnessed what I have during this election. No amount of explanation or passion for a candidate warrants it. We have children to raise, jobs to maintain, churches to fill; we don’t have time for this and we shouldn’t be tolerating it.

Voter suppression happens everywhere else, doesn’t it? People using their trucks loaded with men and guns to put fear into others. How can we as Americans sanction such tactics? We have fought for the right to vote and to protect the vote our entire lives. We have protected voting in other nations, now our own needs that protection. What are we becoming?

I watched the news tonight and became more anxious by the minute. Where has the country I was raised to love and believe in gone? During every time of crisis in this country we have tried to come together, except in one instance, the Civil War. Is that where we are headed? We need to think about what is happening and how it will stop if we as a people do not send a unified message that our country is more important than anything. We can’t allow people to ignore the law, change it to accommodate a few, or embody those who bully and intimidate. That is not who I thought we were. I knew politics could be brutal locally, but nationally I always thought in the end, we would come together. That is my prayer as I write this.

It is important to understand each other. No matter where you stand politically that is not what is running this election. We have mingled our faith and our government in a way that will cost us in the future. We have stacked the courts, all to meet the goals of those who would use our religious beliefs to curry their positions while they do not vote, share or embody those values. Why? Because they say what we want to hear, knowing full well they cannot deliver as our country is designed and protected by a Constitution that is very clear on the separation of church and state.

What we have sacrificed through all of this is our “countryhood.” I know that isn’t a word but it needs to be right now. We, as Americans, have an ideology to protect. We have embodied freedom and liberty and fought for it to the death. And yet, we have compromised it during this election. We have to find middle ground again and we need to do it in tandem with the faith-based community, those who have been disenfranchised, those who serve us (doctors, nurses and civil servants), employers, businesses and civic leaders.

Civil Rights issues must be addressed, acknowledged and implemented. Education needs to be examined and opened to everyone. If we haven’t learned anything from this we should have learned that our entire way of doing business has to be more fluid because nature can take over and we are back in a holding pattern when it does. COVID has to be our top priority because the numbers have exploded. In the beginning I didn’t know anyone who had it, now I can count 14 people I know or I have met who have died from it. It seems we all know multiple people struggling with COVID right now. We should give a resounding thanks to our health care workers, our civil servants and our health department for all the hard work and diligent care they provided.

Ironically, it almost feels like we have to rebuild, not physically but morally and ethically. A sense of pride is only achieved when someone feels like they have contributed something of value, something that can’t be measured by money or position, but rather by hard work and diligence because you believed so fervently in what you were doing.

There was so much to still be done before this election — homelessness, substance abuse, domestic violence, those working below a living wage, suicide, the list goes on and on — and I am sure that in many instance we will return to working on the list as we were before. I really believe that some things have changed permanently. I don’t think we will ever have a quiet election again; I don’t believe we will ever know with certainty that our election process can be safe; I don’t believe we will have a real trust of each other for a long time.

What I do believe is that we will survive, we have to. The world is watching. We will quiet down, as COVID is dealt with by the most brilliant medical minds in the world. We will heal and begin to live our lives again, however cautiously. As we do, we must learn that we are Americans first and Democrats and Republicans last.

Barbara Anderson is a local human rights activist. Contact her at barbanderson_1@yahoo.com.

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