One thing I’m pretty sure of as you read this on Friday, 11/4 – in one way or another, the election next week is on your mind. Maybe you’re trying as best you can to forget it for a moment (good luck with that). Or maybe, like me, you’re metaphorically biting your nails.
But regardless who you’re voting for, I bet one thing you’ve asked yourself over and over, is WHY would anyone vote for the other candidate? How did they make that decision?
Was it a rational analysis of every policy statement each candidate has offered? Yeah, I’m joking.
Was it an assessment of the objective facts? Yep, joking again, since in this election cycle it seemed impossible to even agree on what any of the facts actually were.
Instead, what tends to change our minds, what tends to sway us, what tends to burn through all those facts, is . . . story.
One story – which has nothing to do with the election, the facts, the issues – can do the trick.
Story is the prime mover in our lives. Why? Because stories personify what those facts can do to us, personally.
Here is a story of how one man made up his mind. This is not about who he chose to vote for, it’s about how he arrived at the decision. This is a comment that I stumbled upon, made in response to Gail Collin’s November 3rd op-ed in New York Times:
From: Steven Learn
I write this comment as an Independent.
My first choice for President was Martin O’Malley. I don’t early vote; I wait until the election day. Too many skeletons come out at the end.
I made my choice yesterday and it had nothing to do with Politics or Debates.
As a Father, I was saddened to hear about an 11-year-old girl with cancer who was merciless teased.
She was called “Crooked Mouth” by schoolmates. This 11-year-old girl committed suicide on Monday, she could no longer stand the constant teasing.
I am a Father of a teen daughter. I don’t like people who make fun of other people. I am voting for Hillary Clinton.
Politics aside, this is a testament to the power of story. Story gives us insight into the world around us, and, in this case, into ourselves as well.
The heartbreaking story of what that little girl did – and why she did it – changed how this man saw the election. And, I’d wager, it taught him something about himself in the bargain.
Stories change how we see the world, that’s their job. I’m not speaking metaphorically here, I mean that literally. It’s the reason we’re wired for story – stories take big ideas, abstract facts and dry concepts and transform them into something personal, specific and concrete. Thus allow they us to experience the way those facts would affect us, in action, in our lives.
And when I say story, I mean all stories – whether we’re talking about novels, short stories, movies, TV, newspaper articles, memoirs, op-ed comments or the stories we tell ourselves about who we are, and how the world works.
This is a good time to remember that the stories we encounter change how we see the world, every minute of every day, whether we’re aware of it or not.
And that as a storyteller, you probably have way more power than you know.