As a Voter Protection Poll Observer in rural Pennsylvania on election day this year, I was struck by how spirituality and religion seemed almost omnipresent.
Many people I met spoke of prayer and both Trump and Biden voters told me that they were leaving the polling place to return home and pray.
And as I thought about my experience, and how intense the arguments have been these past months, I was reminded of President Lincoln’s second inaugural address, when, in speaking to the struggle between North and South he observed: “...Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other.”
This same scenario was playing out in rural Pennsylvania – in the metaphors voters were using, in the bumper stickers people had on cars, and in the small diner where I had breakfast as the local Christian radio station played background to the luncheon counter battleground.
Two sides, united in principle, but opposed in cause.
In that same speech, Lincoln went on to say: “...The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully.”
Can the same can be said of our election this past week?
I keep reaching back to snippets of conversations I had at the polls, some just seconds long and some longer, where we seemed to bridge that divide and again seek to become one people, one nation.
When I thanked a Trump supporter for voting, as I did everyone who cast a ballot that day, he turned and said to me: “...I woke up this morning with God in my heart; I have no hate for Joe Biden.”
This same sentiment was expressed beautifully by a man in his mid-50s, wearing a Trump 2020 T-Shirt, who made a point of coming up to me (I was required by law to stay 50 feet from the actual polling place, but I chose to stay back further), put out his hand and said: “...no matter what outcome, we’ve got to stop hating each other.”
We have to stop hating each other.
One of my most cherished MLK quotes is his proverbial statement on hate: “...Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that” Dr. King said, “...Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
So as the never-ending campaign finally ends, inspired by my experience in Pennsylvania, today we put up a lawn sign at our home that says, “Hate Has No Home Here.”
And yes, we mean it for our household; but our hope is that hate has no home in our community, or our country – red or blue.
Dennis Walto is the CEO at Children’s Health Fund. He and his family moved to Warwick in 2016. He explained why he was a Voter Protection Poll Observer: “Looking at the electoral map, and especially the need for a strong presence in rural PA, I volunteered to work in Wayne County on Election Day. The program was run by the PA Democrats. I answered questions folks had and also provided masks to voters who forget them. I was an ‘outside’ observer as a non-state resident, so I never actually entered the polling place, nor did I do any active ‘electioneering’.”