In some ways, I feel like the entire citizenry of the United States of America breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday morning. Maybe the leaders we wanted didn’t get elected, but at least the onslaught of mean-spirited political ads is over for a while. Sadly, those ads seem to be effective — at least at polarizing a country that has a history of thriving through pulling together.
As we reflect on the election process, make peace with the collective voice of the people, and prepare to move forward, I stand with many of my friends and countrymen in saying that, if you didn’t participate in the process, I don’t want to hear much of anything you have to say politically. You surrendered your rights — in fact, you treated them like trash in my book. Men and women have sacrificed life and limb, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers — so that you could shut down and make excuses. There, I said it.
For the rest of us, I have a few thoughts:
Whether we got the ones we wanted or not, it is time to move on. Put down the accusations, the hatred, the mistrust, and start looking forward. You can still participate in the political process. Write to your leaders, express your thoughts. It may not be a lot, but it’s more than you would have in other countries. Whatever you do, remember (especially as Latter-day Saints) that we have an obligation to honor and obey the laws of the land. (See Article of Faith 1:12) As a last resort, buckle down and remember that we only have to make it four years — then the whole process starts over again.
I think the thing that has disturbed me the most about this election is the rampant belief that government is supposed to solve our problems. To me, that is in direct conflict with many teachings of the gospel: self-reliance, sacrifice (see also the talk given by Dallin H. Oaks in April 2012), and service. I also can’t see the sense in believing that something like our government will ever have the moral courage, power, and sense to truly eliminate the ills of society.
That means that we need to step up and be willing to take care of business for ourselves:
- Taking care of ourselves and our family: We need to work hard to educate ourselves and to train ourselves to express the deepest good that is in us. We need to manage all of our resources wisely, and prepare for the upsets and catastrophes that will inevitably come our way. Life is messy. We need to be ready to take care of ourselves and our families without becoming a burden on others.
- Taking care of our neighbors: Once our family is reasonably provided for, we need to look around at the needs of our neighbors. Surely, we can take some treats and spend some time with someone who is lonely. We can reach out to the strangers next door and get to know them. Without creating dependence on our handouts or the handouts of others, we can talk with and guide others to find workable solutions to their problems. We absolutely want to be able to support and aid when catastrophe strikes, but sometimes, the most crushing burdens are the most quiet.
- Taking care of our communities: Unless you live in an extremely rural area, there are good causes and places you can volunteer all around you. Pick one. Get involved. Give your time and give of yourself. Not only does it lift the people you are helping, it lifts you.