By Bill Reagan (File photo)
Our country has emerged from a bruising political campaign, where emotions were strained and the outcome shocked many people. Half of the country is now exhilarated in anticipation of a massive shake-up, while the other half is apprehensive, to put it mildly.
Just as we’re experiencing the uncertainty and the jockeying for position that comes with every new administration, we also are approaching a day of thanksgiving followed by a season of merriment — a period of parties and gatherings where the small talk may not feel so small.
These holidays are likely to be more stressful than usual, as those delighted by the election results are thrown together with those who are reeling.
These feelings have been palpable over the last few weeks in encounters between neighbors, colleagues, business partners and clientele. When family members or friends are involved, the situation can feel even more fraught.
In anticipation of this season, I am calling on all of us to support each other as we consider what comes next and process our reactions to the events of the past weeks. We can choose to let this seismic election freeze us in our tracks, or we can choose to focus on personal, professional and civic productivity.
Diversity is what makes our country thrive. Research shows that businesses that are more diverse are more productive. We live in one of the most diverse areas of the country, and we as a community recognize how this enhances our experiences. But it is all too easy to live side-by-side with those that are different from us without interacting with them in a meaningful way.
Understanding and communicating with one another across regional, political, racial, class and gender divides involves effort and thoughtfulness. It requires the humility to admit when we are wrong and the constant dedication to do better. It requires that we show up to face potentially uncomfortable realities within our community, our friends and ourselves.
As Alexandrians, we should encourage this dialogue and foster these opportunities. But at the same time, we cannot tolerate bigotry and discrimination couched as differences of opinion.
Alexandria has prided itself on being a welcoming and open community, and words or actions that threaten this should be swiftly and thoroughly refuted. We must create a safe environment where these conversations can take place.
I know we are up to this task. We can use this holiday season as a period of reflection to consider our own values and the values of our country and community. We can focus on the things that make us great, and the opportunities we have for growth in the coming year.
We can start constructive conversations with those who may disagree with us and truly seek to understand their point of view. Such sincere efforts won’t push away all the anxiety around us, but they can help us align our thoughts and emotions more productively.
America is a great country and Alexandria is a wonderful community. We can make sure that does not change.
The writer is the executive director of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center.