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Letter to the Editor

To the Editor,

     I voted in the U.S. Presidential Election last Tuesday, for the very first time.

     As a first-generation immigrant, taking part in such an occasion of civic engagement, with 146 million of my fellow citizens, was a deeply humbling experience. I wanted to share some of my thoughts in the wake of the past week.

     It is my belief that politics, at its core, is an ongoing conversation about values, about who and what is important to us, both individually and collectively. 

     Talking about one's value is not easy, as it requires a degree of vulnerability. Others may not share values. The easiest thing in the world when faced with a challenge to something you hold dear is to shut down and frame the other person as “wrong” or a barrier.

     I remember in 2016 when Hillary Clinton lost, I felt devastated, seeing the defeat as a repudiation of my own value system. I was so sure that I had been objectively “right.” I now understand that 2016 was not a rejection of these values, any more than Joe Biden’s election is not a total validation of them. 

     Humans are complex and when it feels like our many different preferences, beliefs, needs and prejudices hinge on a singular event it can feel as though there is only glorious victory or crushing defeat as outcomes to be had. 

     But this is not the case, we are neighbors, family, friends and Americans far more than we are Republicans or Democrats. 

     The conversation between the different views in our nation will carry on. 

     There is no end game, the country never turns permanently red or blue. 

     The conversation must and will continue. 

     It is difficult, but we have to believe as a nation that we are capable of having it with dignity, respect, love and empathy. 

     Not just speaking, but listening, with a generosity of spirit. We have to decide as a nation, what sort of tone we want it to take and how we want our side of the conversation to be represented. 

     Of course, we have the option of simply avoiding the difficult conversations. There are a multitude of silos to go to on social media, or network news. But growth will only come with the courage to hold space for one another and talk.

     This year John Hume, the great Irish civil rights leader passed away, he spent his life working to unite the divided communities of Northern Ireland and his quote below, if you replace the word Ireland with America and the number 4.5 million with 300 million, speaks to the uncomfortable conversations that are necessary to lean into, if we are to continue, as a people to grow.

     “Ireland is not a romantic dream; it is not a flag; it is 4.5 million people divided into two powerful traditions. The solution will be found not on the basis of victory for either, but on the basis of agreement and a partnership between both. The real division of Ireland is not a line drawn on the map but in the minds and hearts of its people.”

Colin Ryan,

Monticello, Iowa


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