I don’t often speak of my personal politics here, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a strong opinion. I do. I’m just not one to argue and debate unless pressed. However, this election year I definitely felt pressed.

I’m a feminist, raised by a feminist. My parents never judged people by their skin color, their gender, their sexuality or body type, and always helped those in need. Peace, love, respect, community – these were things I was taught to value from an early age. And these were the things I saw torn to shreds over the course of this election year and it saddened me. No, it sickened me.

I am also a sexual abuse survivor with many friends who are abuse and/or rape survivors, so to hear the term “legitimate rape” thrown around made my blood boil. I was frightened that my teenage niece would end up with fewer rights than I had at her age – or than her grandmothers and great-grandmothers had.

Like many of my friends, family members, and probably many of you, I work very hard just to keep myself afloat. I don’t have adequate health care or savings, but I do have big dreams, so I keep plugging away, doing what I can for myself, my loved ones, my neighbors. To hear 47 percent of us hardworking, big-dreaming Americans labeled as “dependent,” “entitled,” “victims”… I was outraged to say the very least.

Sad, sick, frightened and outraged, that’s how I felt for the past few months. Then I came home Tuesday night from teaching (one of my five jobs, but who’s counting), planning to down a whole bottle of wine to cope with waiting for the election results. As I was opening it, I started receiving “Obama!!!!” texts from friends. I still drank that wine to celebrate, but finally anxiety was replaced with hope.

Do I think Obama’s re-election is going to fix everything? Of course not, but I hope progress will be made, especially in the way we treat each other. Maybe I’m a dreamer, raised by dreamers to still believe in peace, love, respect, and community, but I do believe.

Being a part of this community, the village of Forest Park, helps me believe in all that for the most part. I see people young and old, from all backgrounds, come together at quirky events like the Casket Races and I feel proud and hopeful. On the flip side, I read about the bickering and infighting that consistently goes on at village council meetings and all those icky election-season feelings rise up in me.

I’ve never spoken up about this because I like to focus on the things that are amazing about this town – the incredible events that village businesses and organizations come together to bring us, joint efforts between places like the Community Center, the schools, the park district and the library to make us healthier and more educated. But it is there in the background, like smog creeping up on us, this political nastiness, and it seems to have worsened like it has in the rest of the country. I’m not naming names or pointing fingers because I honestly think they are all responsible for it – and we are responsible for them.

Both Obama and Romney’s speeches at the end of election night were good ones, making it clear that it’s time to put away swords and extend hands. I ask the Mayor and the commissioners to do the same, and the people of Forest Park, myself included, to make sure they do so.

This way our town, like our country, can move forward.

Stephanie Kuehnert

Stephanie is the author of "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone" and "Ballads of Suburbia." She's a proud Forest Parker who holds a master's in fine arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. She also works locally...