How we act when an election is over

Like so many others who voted on Tuesday, I used the provided black marker to fill in bubbles of my choice on the ballot.

Different bubbles than others, perhaps, but using the same action. Throughout my voting experience, I said hello to quite a few people. I waved at a few others. I saw my next-door neighbor and we laughed, because we didn’t realize right away that we were standing in line next to one another. I asked one guy who works the elections every year how he was doing. The whole experience was pleasant. The people were pleasant. As far as I know, it was a rather pleasant, hassle-free, disturbance-free voting experience in most polling locations.

I know that not everyone in that room voted the same way I did. I’m sure there are thousands of different vote combinations. Why is it that we can show up on Election Day to vote and treat each other with respect and dignity and use pleasantries, knowing very well that we are all voting differently, and yet we are a nation so fiercely divided? We are a nation filled with hate and inability — or maybe it is uninterest — in having dialogue about topics of disagreement. In the very place where we cast our votes regarding many of the topics that lead to so many heated, aggressive arguments that result in name calling, personal attacks and threats, we are calm, sociable, friendly, and kind to one another. That screams irony.

I can identify three major differences between the voting experience and other moments when the negativity creeps in. First, we typically don’t discuss politics at the polls. Second, we are standing face-to-face with others at the polls. Many of whom are our friends and neighbors. Third, we are easily identified at the polls.

It disgusts me to see the hate, negativity and fake news that is spewed when we aren’t at the polls, when we aren’t facing one another, and when we aren’t able to be easily identified. I see such a lack of professionalism and feel great disappointment when I witness the inability of some to have a respectful conversation about topics on which they disagree. The division of our country and the disrespect for one another is ugly, embarrassing, and sad.

What if, the next time we are tempted to engage in a discussion that is crossing the line into ugly, hateful, attacking, or other gross behavior, we remember these things. We remember that we all vote using the same method. We vote with our friends, neighbors, family, relatives, and the kindest of strangers. We remember that we are more likely to engage in destructive behaviors when we aren’t face to face with one another, when we are not at the polls, or when we cannot be easily identified, and we understand that the lack of those factors doesn’t make it right to engage with such a negative, attacking approach.

At the end of an Election Day, we are all left with the same thing. We all have the same election outcome. We return to our lives. We have many more similarities than we likely realize, and we probably all voted with the same common theme in mind — making our lives and the lives of others better.

Is it worth it to engage in situations, rhetoric and behavior that further divides us? Behavior that drives the wedge even deeper? Would it be better to take a different approach, one in which we strive for kindness, professionalism, and educated conversations void of behavior and language we wouldn’t use while physically at the polls? I know I cannot change the actions of every person in our nation or our state. But what if we could make a big impact in the kind of behavior we engage in here in Northeast Michigan? What if we were a bright spot in the state for having a positive approach, and mature discourse, setting an example for others to follow? Wouldn’t it be incredible to have people look to our neck of the woods and wish to emulate us because we demonstrate that it is possible to talk about difficult, polarizing topics, without being harsh, rude, aggressive, or closed-minded?

Jackie Krawczak is president/CEO of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs biweekly on Thursdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.