Let’s make up, not break up

Neil Sedaka’s song “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” was first released in 1962 and hit number one on Aug. 11, as I was turning 13.

The age of angst. I’m referring to the teenage years – a complex blend of joy and melancholy, hormones and high school.

I smile at the realization that some 50-plus years later, we could also refer to today as an age of angst, couldn’t we?

This presidential election has evoked feelings of joy and melancholy, for sure. Thankfully, there are now ways to control hormones (even if it is the arrival of middle age) and today our connections to high school are reunions or watching our families’ younger generations participate in some school event.

I’m thinking about creating a parody for that great old song with a working title: “Making up is even harder to do.”

I cannot recall talking with anyone about this election who hasn’t said, in effect, how divisive it has been. I know folks, and I suspect you do, too, who are reluctant to discuss the presidential election for fear of getting into an argument with a neighbor or work colleague. I know some who flat out won’t discuss it.

Families have even drawn boundaries in an effort to keep the peace as many, including mine, are divided in their support for one candidate over another. I’m confident my gang will weather it to Nov. 9, take a big collective sigh of relief, accept the outcome – which will not be easy for some of them – and still look forward to the next time we can be with each other.

But, will most Americans be able to accept the outcome and move on?  Honestly, I’m worried.

It became clear for me recently when I called a friend who just happens to be a loyal Republican. Our conversation was casual. She asked what I was writing about that week. I said I was mulling about writing what Republican women think of their presidential candidate. This was about 48 hours after the public release of ” the bus tape” featuring a lot of “locker room talk.”

“Want to know what I think?” she asked me. “Sure,” I said, then fell silent as she vigorously defended him. She didn’t stop at the tape. She defended him on several issues, then redirected her focus to his opponent. She is not a fan, which became abundantly clear as she ticked off a list of things that made her question the kind of president she would be.

She wasn’t done. She circled back to her candidate, whom she admits is far from perfect, chided the media for their coverage, and ended by saying, “That is why I am voting for Donald Trump.”

Almost immediately, she asked whether she had gone too far. I reassured her she had not. We chatted about a few more things and, before hanging up, she asked again whether she had taken her stand too far. I said to her, “I love you as much now as I did when I picked up the phone to call you.”

I meant every word.

What about others who will be confronted with similar situations, and this includes me. Is winning an argument worth risking a friendship? Is winning an election more important than maintaining a sense of community? What do we do about the very real fact so many Americans are divided about what “country” means, what “success” means, what “fairness” means?

Americans love to talk. Need proof? Our airwaves are filled with TV and cable talk shows thanks, I believe, to an unrelenting 24/7 format which forsakes entertainment for “news” and opinion they pass off as entertainment. I remember listening to the radio to enjoy music. Now AM radio, in particular, is filled with talk shows. FM is only a little better as teams chat back and forth about the mundane or their advertisers, occasionally playing a tune. We’re doing tons of talking, but how much listening are we doing?

I learned something from talking with my Trump-supporting friend and it really did affect my perspective about “the bus tape.” That was possible only by my willingness to listen to her with an openness essential for learning, protecting our relationship and moving forward regardless of opinion or outcome.

I admit I may not be easily able to do the same with others. I suspect some may feel similarly as it relates to beliefs and feelings about America and its future direction. As hard as making up might be, I think breaking up over this election will be ruinous for our futures whether we identify as D, R or I.  Time for a lot less talking and a whole lot more listening.

As Sedaka sang, “Think of all that we’ve been through…” “…can’t we give our love” (of country) “just one more try?” “…cause breaking up is hard to do.”

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