Now what? Real work of governance begins after elections

| Kathy Tomlin | November 6, 2012 | 0 Comments

Unfortunately, my crystal ball has left me hanging as I write this commentary before Election Day. And so I pen this not knowing the specific outcome of the elections, but knowing that whoever is in the driver’s seat needs to be able to work with the other people on the bus.

We all know that the real work of governance begins after the election. For me, the single biggest question about that governance and the direction of this country and our state is whether we will focus on a shared future together or whether we will continue to be divided and paralyzed by the power of polarization.

Time for reflection

Whatever the results of the election, we are all probably in need of healing. Taking a moment to consider how we might have been hurt or might have hurt others in the process of this election might be a good first response to the outcome.

Making space and taking some time for reflection may help us to be reconciled to each other in a way that allows us to be in service to each other. This is the kind of leadership the Gospel call us to.

I’m not challenging only our political leaders who were elected, but the citizenry who either stood by in silence or spoke loudly and often during the past several months. Frankly, if we can’t get beyond the walls that separate us from one another, I fear for the well-being of the next several generations.

Therefore, I am suggesting we turn a new page on our discourse. Perhaps we could imagine a new politics that includes the following action:

  • Active listening, which also means active silence that results in walking for a bit in another’s shoes;
  • Looking for the things that we share in common, finding that common ground about which we can agree;
  • Viewing conflict as the creative enterprise that engages us with each other; finding creativity in the differences and challenging encounters that we have and continue to face;
  • Mentoring the next generation in the art of civic engagement; finding in them what we might not be able to find in ourselves: the willingness to unpack our ideas, listen to others and add new insights as we repack our bag;
  • Refusing to mistake public opinion for public judgment. They are two different things. Public opinion reflected in the polls is often bereft of real judgment;
  • Realizing that the notion of “private citizen” is an oxymoron. By definition, citizenship implies active participation as a stakeholder in society and taking responsibility for others in the community.

Looking to the future

As Thanksgiving approaches and we take that romantic look back to our ancestors, I would like to take a moment to honor our future.

Our children and the children to come need to be able to count on the fact that our politics are in defense of their dignity, their safety, their education, the stability of their housing and family relationships and, above all, their sense of hope, opportunity and connection to adults who claim them as their responsibility.

Let us move forward together realizing that it does take a village to create our shared future.

Kathy Tomlin is vice president for social justice advocacy for Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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Category: Faith and Justice