The now famous quote by First Lady Michelle Obama “When they go low, we go high” resonated with many of us who have lived our lives making the purposeful choice to take the high road. Since the election, taking the high road has been bumpy for most of us. My reaction to the election results was not good. I repeatedly caught myself starting down the low road over that last few days.
What does it mean to take the “high road”? The most common meaning is “doing the right thing even it is not popular or easy.” To me, it means maintaining my dignity, my credibility and perhaps my sanity in times of stress. I accept that I cannot stay on the high road all of the time, I am only human. Nevetheless, it is the place where I feel better about myself and the world around me is most clear.
If taking the “high road” means maintaining my dignity and credibility, what does the “low road” signify? Simply to take revenge, to feel the ultimate need to right a wrong. Revenge is a dangerous emotion. It puts one at risk of losing focus under the guise of righteousness. Without focus, one cannot see the impact of actions clearly. A quest for vengeance can lead to inflicting harm that was not intended. Statements made in anger create irreversible damage to relationships.
The challenge with revenge and vengeance is that it puts you at risk of behaving at the same level of those who wronged you. In the case of the election, I voted against what I saw and still see as wrongs against humanity - racism, prejudice, misogyny, xenophobia. These are words I had never heard in a sentence before the election. Words of hate filled our news reports and social media posts. The outcome of the election plummeted into a state of grief deeper than I ever could imagine.
It was not just that my candidate lost the election. It felt like evil won. I could not imagine how anyone I cared about would support the hateful language that came out of the mouth of the President elect. I was embarrassed for our country. The phone calls from my many overseas collegues expressing their dismay fueled my grief. The news reports of hate crimes, abuse to people of color and children only served to drive me to deeper despair. Friends and family members now felt validated and open to voicing racist views that I would never have imagined. For all of the hate I feared from the opposing candidate's radical supporters; I was now seeing it close to home. The election polarized us as a nation; the post election results divided us a family.
For the first time in my adult life, I felt true fear. The fear was not for me but the lives of my children, my grandchildren, and my friends. The fear itself frightened me to the depths of my soul. Feeling helpless is not a natural state for me. I spent four sleepless nights searching for the way back.
As I searched in my heart and mind for the answer, my instincts told me that I must find my way to the high road. It is where I see more clearly. I just had to figure out how.
An unlikely event helped me there today. While making cookies with my five year old granddaughter tonight she excitedly proclaimed- “Gramma. Gramma let me tell you something I learned in school.” She proceeded to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in her darling little voice.
I Pledge Allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America
and to the Republic
for which it stands,
one Nation under God,
with liberty and justice for all.
With tears in my eyes, I knew she had given me a gift and route back to my high road. Moreover, that is the belief in the foundation of what this country was founded on and has stood for over 240 years- liberty and justice for all. We have had a rocky road of it over those years, but we have always been moving forward. There are those that fear true liberty and hide behind their version of justice limited to people that look like them. We cannot change them; we can only keep true to ourselves. We cannot forget that we are one nation. We cannot allow us to become divided. Wallowing in our anger or our grief will not solve our concerns.
I choose to take the high road. I choose to fight against injustice with dignity. I choose to stand up and speak out against prejudice as I have all of my life. I choose to continue to support women with the long term intent of making the world a better place for their daughters and granchildren not yet born. I choose to refuse to take part in dividing this country further.
That is my high road. I can see clearer now. I hope you find yours.