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The bigger test is beyond Election Day

The upcoming election is a major crossroads for this nation. The two paths before us are perhaps more widely divergent than at any time in recent memory. And the number of political campaign signs we’ve seen while driving around the North Country is more than we ever remember seeing before.

But let’s not only hope for our preferred candidates’ victory. Let’s also prepare to maintain dignity and civility if other candidates win.

The leaders of both of our major political parties offer horrific forecasts for what will happen to us if the other side wins in November, but let’s not be rushed into panic mode. Yes, the decisions the president makes over the next four years will affect our lives, and will hurt some people more than others. But things will come around again. Political parties have been taking turns for our nation’s entire history, and we don’t see any that cycle ending anytime soon.

While democracy is the best system of government we have seen, it’s not a game one can permanently “win.” Even in the short term, your favorite politicians are not going to solve every problem you see. Life is not going to be perfect. There will still be injustice, immorality, poverty, violence, waste and pollution. And sometimes, the world really goes sideways. We have to live with it, and live with each other through it.

We can never use the state of the world as an excuse for not doing good. If we, as individuals and communities, have good hearts and do good works for each other, we will get through anything.

People with some form of religious belief often have an advantage in this perspective because they supposedly believe that this world, this life, is not our true home — that we are here temporarily, that we are being tested on how we behave in good times and in bad, and that faith and good works will be rewarded in the hereafter.

This election will be a big test for our nation, not just in which leaders the majority of us choose but also in how we conduct ourselves through the process.

With so many absentee ballots this year, due to the pandemic, the winner of the election will probably not be known for days or weeks after Nov. 3. There will probably be accusations of fraud, foreign interference and/or mistakes. At least some of those things may actually happen, although the accusers have reasons to blow them out of proportion. We, the people, will have to be patient.

Trusting the system is hard, but know that our decentralized voting system is actually pretty impervious to tampering, run as it is by thousands of local election boards. It can get messy, but those poll workers really believe that the way to choose leaders is by voting. So do almost all Americans. We want the system to work. So let’s weed out the problems and make it work.

An even bigger test will come after the election results are known and the next presidential term begins. In a divided nation, it will be more important than ever for the president to try to govern for all, not just those who voted for him. But whether he does that or not, it will be critically important for us to hang tight and try our best to live with those with whom we disagree.

The integrity and resilience of the people is far more important than any government leadership or policies. So let’s keep resilience in mind these next few months. Maybe the pandemic will actually help us do that. It is forcing us to adapt to adversity — and adaptability is the key reason why humans have survived and thrived as a species.