What will we reap? | Guest column

  • Friday, November 18, 2016 1:30pm
  • Opinion

James Whitfield. Contributed photo

We earned this. Whether you voted for President-Elect Donald Trump or not, you are a resident of the country that did. Our country. And our next president.

Some of us are frustrated we didn’t do more to stop his rise. Others of us are elated we finally stopped hers. Either way, at the end of an exhausting election cycle characterized by unprecedented acrimony, we are all obliged to reap what we have sown.

One of Leadership Eastside’s central principles for community leadership is to hold ourselves accountable for the outcomes of our shared decisions. Now, let’s acknowledge that the U.S. election process feels like anything but shared decision-making for far too many people. Let’s also acknowledge that the vast majority of the people reading this column have both franchise and means to exercise influence on people around them. So, our question becomes, how do we hold ourselves accountable?

This is not a trivial question. It forces us to look in the mirror beyond our gloom or gloating and get clear about what are we going to do about the election we just completed.

For those of us who supported the president-elect, what will we do about the people who are seriously afraid? A Muslim-American Eastsider told me this election cycle has been worse than 9/11 in terms of Muslim backlash. The data backs him up. Incidents targeting Islamic centers, women wearing hijabs and people who “look Muslim” are at unprecedented levels. Here. In East King County. Eastside Trump supporters say this election is not about hate. Then what are we going to do to ensure our neighbors feel more safe?

Whether it was intended or not, hate has been sown. Misogyny. Racism. Xenophobia. Homophobia. Our challenge is, what will be reaped?

In some ways, the charge to Hillary Clinton’s supporters feels more delicate, though no less important. If we’re honest, many of us ascribed to some version of the “Basket of Deplorables” theory. In doing so, we overlooked legitimate reservations people may have had about our history-making candidate as well as the underlying frustrations of a portion of our society who feel overwhelmed and ignored by the pace of change.

How are we planning to hold ourselves accountable to the values we desired from our political opponents? We sought love. Inclusion. Understanding of differences. Surely we must act in kind. Whether we intended it or not, reprobation has been sown. Our challenge is, what will be reaped?

Somewhere along the way, it became popular to say, “Don’t blame me, I voted for the other candidate.” Maybe that is acceptable for people without any influence. But leaders have a responsibility to hold ourselves accountable, even when the outcome is not to our liking. When we sow, we may sow alone. But when we reap, we reap together.

Regardless of whom we voted for, it’s time to lead. Help make the people around us feel safer — people who don’t look like us, who don’t worship like us, who didn’t vote like us. We must stand strong for our values, but do it with open eyes and open arms. And in four years, may we reap a great election — regardless of which candidate wins — and enjoy the fruits of years’ worth of holding ourselves accountable to our values as community leaders.

We earned the America we live in today. If we want a better one tomorrow, we must sow those seeds right now.

James Whitfield is president and CEO of Leadership Eastside.

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