Friends and countrymen, 48 hours from now it will finally be done. Nearly two years of political posturing, campaigning, villainizing, deifying, and aggrandizing will be at an end. Finally!
Unfortunately, when it all ends, many — if not all — of us won’t be able to feel the relief we should feel after completing such an ordeal. Half of us will be despondent and looking to lash out. Half of us will be jubilant, at first tempted to gloat . . . and then tempted to lash out in response to attacks and promises of intransigence from the despondent other half. The less considerate of us will blunder around in jubilation, while the more considerate will tiptoe carefully around the exposed feelings of our friends and neighbors — the losers — all the while smiling inside.
That’s the best case scenario. Because, who knows? This thing may not actually end tomorrow. It may drag on for weeks . . . . Remember 2000? Accusations of lying pale in comparison to accusations of cheating . . . .
So, for the next week or so, today is probably as relieved and introspective as we’re going to feel. And before we get to the glorying and the doomsdaying, I want to take a minute for some thoughts about just what the last two years have meant. Please bear with me.
Today — even with all the negative campaigning — we’re still hearing all about hope for the next four years. Tomorrow, we’ll hear much less optimistic predictions about the incalculable damage that a President Obama or a President Romney will inflict on America.
But I would suggest to you all that, regardless of who becomes President, that more significant damage has already been done.
The wounds we’ve inflicted on each other in the cause of selecting leadership are deep and severe. Right now, the pain is blunted by the desperate hope that our side will still win. But, as in so many things, one side will win, the other will lose. And the loss will expose the wounds that have already been inflicted, while the win won’t feel nearly as satisfying as we had hoped. The scars will still be there, even for the winners.
Sure, a lot of us will try to patch things up. We’ll post about the need to come back together, the fact that we’re all Americans, the fact that we have much more in common with each other than the few ways in which we’re different. That’s all nice, and very true.
But coming from an awful lot of us — winners or losers — these expressions of conciliation will mean relatively little after the last two years we’ve spent overtly, or more subtly, villainizing each other and each other’s belief systems. And it will mean even less if it just starts back up again in five days.
I’m as guilty, if not more guilty than most.
How can anyone govern a country after a campaign like this? How do individuals, much less a country, heal when this happens every two years?
Surely the solution isn’t for us all to become more hardened or to just ignore the election . . . .
I’m not naive enough to romanticize America’s political past. We are, by and large, where we have always been when it comes to political campaigning. But the fact that we’re not any worse shouldn’t give us much comfort. It’s a problem. A big problem. One that not only savages our governance but our personal relationships. This country has improved in many, many ways since 1787, but we have not gotten much better when it comes to political campaigning and our selection of leaders.
Unfortunately, we’ve just run up against human nature.
Fixing healthcare or balancing the budget is a cakewalk compared to fixing something like this.
But my own personal belief system tells me that a person’s nature can change, and I suggest to you that we need to try and change when it comes to how we conduct our campaigns and how we cope with elections.
Rather than offer solutions that I don’t have, I’d just like to leave you with a few words (that I suggest we all apply to ourselves, rather than to any candidate or candidate’s supporter):
“And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.”
“Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
“Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
“Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.
“Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”
Marvin J. Ashton
“Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.
Joseph B. Wirthlin
“Love is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the pathway of discipleship. It comforts, counsels, cures, and consoles. It leads us through valleys of darkness and through the veil of death. In the end love leads us to the glory and grandeur of eternal life.. . .
“The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of transformation. It takes us as men and women of the earth and refines us into men and women for the eternities.
“The means of this refinement is our Christlike love. There is no pain it cannot soften, no bitterness it cannot remove, no hatred it cannot alter. The Greek playwright Sophocles wrote: ‘One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.’
“The most cherished and sacred moments of our lives are those filled with the spirit of love. The greater the measure of our love, the greater is our joy. In the end, the development of such love is the true measure of success in life.”
This process of selecting our leaders is both a fundamental right and a necessary evil.
It’s hard, and it hurts. We need to be at our best, not at our worst. Because if we’re not careful, it will never end.