The election is over. How do we move toward a better America? | Ana White

Pro-Trump protesters gathered at the state Capitol as national media called the 2020 presidential race for Joe Biden. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

In what seems like the longest political season in recent memory, Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the nation’s president- and vice-president elect.

Ana White (Capital-Star file)

Regardless of one’s political affiliation, one of the largest overarching sentiments felt in this nation revolves not only in the presidential outcome, but in the processes and occurrences that have led us towards casting our vote.

The nation we have all learned about in history books and Saturday Morning Schoolhouse Rocks  episodes appears to be a distant memory for many of us. In times where clarity and direction should have felt like a completed task, this election season has lent itself to a wider spectrum of emotion.

For many, the feelings of a divided country are both louder and more apparent than ever. More than examining specific policies and procedures, the heart of Americans and our values have been tested and reaffirmed. It appears that we have done what has historically been done when we attempt to merge values, morality, and systems.

From the early stages of separation of church and state’, many of us are more than aware that our moral compass and values are etched in behaviors and social order.

This sense of who we believe that we are drives our decision making, namely leadership selection. With our efforts to keep things separate, this election season has taught us that who we are, as people and as a nation, is more deeply rooted in our decision making, and that our moral compass is not separated from our decisions, but rather tightly threaded in our life choices.

Without argument over whether that rings as a good or bad thing, our reality remains that who we have believed ourselves to be in society has been challenged in this season.

Supporters of President-elect Joe Biden rally on the steps of the state Capitol on Saturday 11/7/20 (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

Police misconduct increases racial tensions and violence, stigmatization and social othering of individuals belonging to socially normative sexual orientations has created a much larger issue: examining the importance of learning and accepting diversity of thought and beliefs.

This season has shown that tolerance served for far too many as an option, and that for many, accepting and celebrating differences was a difficult task.

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So, what has the election taught us about our America, the America whose mask has shifted, exposing the ugly truths of who we once were and who we have always been?

Perhaps for many, not much. Disinterest  and mistrust in politics has severed ties between the American people and the political system we depend on for democracy and freedoms. But for those who understand that this season has exposed the worst and possibly the best parts of us simultaneously, the work has just begun.

Whether you felt as if the election was a long, exhausting marathon run, a middle distance race filled with hurdles, or skipped through the emotions of this season in a burst of sprints, the undeniable fact remains that in this season of rewriting history, we must take our time with our country’s future.

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The sense of urgency in the pandemic aside, America’s trauma has run deep. As with any ‘abusive’ relationship, it must be cared for, its pain acknowledged, its bruises addressed and bandaged. We can no longer afford to rush through another relationship, omitting the work we need to do to address past lovers- both loving and abusive.

As a nation with historical uphill battles still being fought, one thing we know on either party lines is that progression is slow, intentional, and at time painstakingly so.

Now as we tend to our wounds, and make peace in the process, perhaps one of the things we can agree on is that moving beyond election season will be no small feat.

But with baby steps in the right direction towards collective change, we may be able to learn who we are again, to understand what makes us such a force, and make peace and progress with what has not allowed us to become our highest selves.

Growing pains are simply that, painful. But if we are mindful that the purpose of such pain comes from our desire to grow, then we may be able to award others with grace and compassion as the process plays itself out.

Opinion contributor Ana White, of Harrisburg, is the owner of Way With Words Consulting Services, LLC., which specializes in diversity and inclusion professional development training. She also works in mental health services in the Harrisburg area. Her work appears biweekly on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.