Surviving the Morning After

Election day is at hand, and the question on everyone’s mind (at least insofar as my television tells me so) seems to be “What’s going to happen today”? Meanwhile, the question foremost in my mind is “What’s going to happen tomorrow”? Because that’s when we really find out what lies in store for the American polity over the next four years (and beyond). And, to my mind, this has very little to do with who wins the popular vote (or the electoral one), because I’m convinced, cynic that I am, that either way, we stand a good chance of losing.

Since the last election, we have lost an important element in our political process: our minds, collectively and individually. It might be argued that, between 2008 and the present, a greater percentage of the American electorate has found a voice, but I’m not convinced that this is a good thing. It should be, mind you. It should be the greatest thing about a democratic system. It should be resoundingly wonderful that, in this country, groups like the Tea Party and other grassroots start-ups have the freedom to come together and have their collective say on the state of our Union. But the benefits of that freedom tend to be drowned out by the language used to express it. And I don’t mean profanity–I have a great fondness for certain four-letter words judiciously applied–or issues vocabulary. I’m referring to the languages of fear, hatred, prejudice, closed-mindedness–in short, the languages we’ve all been increasingly guilty of using lately. Let me be clear: this is a non-partisan observation. Neither side of the proverbial aisle is in any position to throw that first stone, unless they do it straight up in the air so that it hits them first.

Our “dialogue” has been co-opted into guerrilla sideshows (the Birther movement, the “secret Muslim” brigade, etc.) and a do-nothing Congress in which victory goes to him what don’t cry Uncle. One side finds itself compelled to ramrod legislation that the other side then finds itself compelled to block in whatever way works. We don’t talk to each other anymore; we talk at each other, about each other, at each other’s expense. I’m a little surprised I haven’t seen groups of rogue voters roaming the streets, beating each other with campaign paraphernalia (but, hey, Election Day is young). We have descended into a Mad Max politics that threatens to divide us as a nation to the point of total impotence, a nation in which a broken financial system and a growing debt are weapons to be used rather than problems to be solved. And this is only Tuesday…

Tomorrow, we will wake up–hopefully–to discover that one candidate or the other has won in a decisive fashion (so as to avoid the kangaroo solution), and when that happens, we have a choice: we can dig our heels in, throw ourselves on the floor in a grown-up temper tantrum, and spend the next two to four years rubbing it in or cussing it out; or, like mature, intelligent people deserving of the democracy we supposedly honor and cherish, we can reach across the ideological divide and embrace those who oppose us, try and actually carry on a conversation that doesn’t involve insults or invective. You know, actually, like, get something useful done.

What will it be: the land of the free, or the home of the deranged?