What the U.S. Election Means for Me and Counterpart

November 14, 2016

Ah, the American election. For those of us who work around the world for inclusion of all, especially women and minorities, we are taking stock of what we have learned from the last week, and how we can put our principles into action in the coming weeks and months. And we are taking a big dose of humility. What we espouse overseas may not be what we are practicing at home.

I have a sticky note on my kitchen wall with the words, “Inescapable network of mutuality” which points me to the quotation of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “All (people) are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

Our challenge is to mend that garment, which has been badly tattered by the U.S. election season by political leaders on both sides, not to mention the infinite number of individual actions that have spread divisiveness. And I am not innocent — I have consumed political rhetoric that has framed the other side as enemies rather than my fellow Americans.

What we are sure of now, as we look into the weeks ahead, is that the true leadership will be measured by our ability to focus on our shared interests as Americans. Both sides need to take visible, meaningful steps in the face of those who stand to gain from keeping us divided.

For Our “Red” Compatriots:

I can’t put words in the mouth of Republican victors. But if I could, I would ask them to publicly acknowledge that their campaign stoked hatred and division. I’d ask them to pledge a strikingly different tone and direction that includes all Americans. Dig deep – find those American values that have made us great. (I personally am inspired by the Statue of Liberty).

For Our “Blue” Compatriots:

I can’t force protesters off the streets of US cities. Rather, I would ask them to use their megaphones to call for the principles that America stands for. Ask the winners to join them in standing for social and economic justice and an end to bigotry. Call out cases where we can do better. But don’t try to overthrow the election — that undermines what makes us a great democracy.

And I Am Taking A Personal Three-Part Pledge:

First, I’m going on a strict content diet that demands facts and rejects mockery. Second, I’m going to rebuild my doughy muscles for constructive engagement with those I disagree with and get a regimen for exercising those muscles. Third, I will use my personal journey as a touchstone as I represent Counterpart around the world.

In many ways, this is the perfect moment to be at Counterpart – an organization whose entire purpose is to help citizens in every context come together, even in the most polarizing times, to engage respectfully, listen with compassion, and find common solutions. If this is possible in fledgling democracies around the world, surely it is possible here. Forward together!

What Do You Think?

As a global citizen, what are your thoughts on where things go from here? Share with us in the comments.

Related Stories
Counterpart’s Legacy in the Kyrgyz Republic: Giving a Voice to Civil Society

Counterpart’s Legacy in the Kyrgyz Republic: Giving a Voice to Civil Society

Erkinbek Kasybekov is a former Counterpart staff member who worked with our team in the Kyrgyz Republic in the 1990s. We recently sat down with him to learn firsthand about...
Sustainably Scaling Community Governance Structures

Sustainably Scaling Community Governance Structures

Counterpart works around the world in localized, highly participatory ways with individuals, leaders, organizations, and government. We elevate the voices of those who have been excluded from the political process...
Related Projects