Friday, November 05, 2004

Election perspective

The number of people who have been shedding tears (including me) over Bush’s win and Kerry’s loss has surprised me. I thought campaign workers and I were the only ones who cried over election outcomes. I think there are two things that will help us through this time: perspective and action.
When I first started voting in presidential elections, Reagan and Bush, Sr. were the victors the first three times I voted. By my fourth presidential election in 1992, my guy won. So, to the young folks who came out enthusiastically to vote for Kerry, I say, don’t get discouraged. There will be elections in which your candidate will prevail. Not only that, but in two years there will be mid-term elections in which people in many states will have the opportunity to reconfigure the House and the Senate, and herein lies our opportunity to hold the people who represent us accountable.
Also, I take heart that 49% of those voting did NOT vote for Bush. Even though Bush/Cheney are claiming a mandate, their side knows we’re out here. If not, we will remind them.
As for the country, I think we’re still in a state of grief but don’t always recognize that . As I told my son, it’s like in some families when someone in the family dies. At first everyone comes together and supports each other through the rough times. Then before you know it, everyone’s at each other’s throats about who gets Granny’s teacups. Of course, Granny’s teacups are worthless, certainly not worth tearing the family apart; people aren’t thinking rationally, although in better times they are quite capable of rational thought. Eventually, some people come back to their senses and realize the family can’t go on like this even though they know they‘re always going to have to deal with the few remaining hotheads. It was never about the teacups at all, but not knowing how to deal with that sense of helplessness.
I think another thing we have to avoid is the us vs. them mentality. The most important reason is because it’s beneath us both as Americans and human beings. Another more practical reason is that we have to listen in order to understand what drives and motivates people. If we take the position that we are smart and they are stupid, we are kind and they are heartless, people with different philosophies are going to become further alienated from one another. Then one side wins and another side loses, and it doesn’t have to be that way.
Another thing I think is going on is that there have been so many changes in perspective and culture that people are overwhelmed. People are at least talking about things that they never would have discussed 20 years ago, let alone 50 years ago. For people who are younger, it’s hard to explain the massive culture shift that has occurred. When I was a little girl, I was the only kid I knew with a divorced, working mom. I did not meet an openly gay person until I was in my second year of college. Now there are 5 gay guys with a hit TV show based on the idea that they are gay. I think there are many younger people now are used to dealing with things changing quickly, but there are other people whose heads are spinning .
I have more to say about this, but for now I think we have to be careful of how the media sometimes reduces people's deeply felt beliefs, fears, hopes and values into stupid pundit-friendly and inaccurate sound bites, which I believe minimizes our complexity as human beings and causes us to misunderstand each other even more than we already do.

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