So, it occurs to me, lying awake at 5 AM, that this election isn’t really about policy. It’s not about our taxes or our guns or religious freedom. These things, as always, will be decided in the Senate, and in Congress, with the Supreme Court keeping a watchful eye on things. No, this election is a giant mirror reflecting who and what we are as a country and most of us are very unhappy with what we’re seeing.
Think of it on a personal level. “Learning experiences” suck. We all know this. Being confronted with things we’ve said and done that have hurt others. Discovering that we have been blithely talking out our ass about things that, to someone else, are intensely meaningful. Realizing precisely what we have tolerated in this world because it didn’t affect us. These are the kinds of things that tend to shake our opinion of ourselves. And that can be both painful and frightening.
So we have a decision to make. A kind of emotional fight-or-flight response ensues. Do we shove it back down and pretend whenever saw it, or do we face it and try to change? The proper answer – the adult answer – is to face the problem and deal with it. This does not guarantee that we will make the right decision. It certainly does not insure that there will be no pain to deal with. It does, however, allow for the possibility of becoming a better person.
Then there’s the election. I can think of few people more vile than Donald Trump. He is telling this country that it’s OK to be racist. That women are here to be grabbed and used. That it’s OK to be greedy – to think only of oneself and not of the country as a whole. He somehow manages to embody everything that is wrong with this country. Even more frightening is that he has managed to convince great whacking gobs of people that this is what makes our country ‘great’ and that we need more of it. He is ignorant and proud of it. He has no moral compass and is proud of that as well.
And there are people all across the country who are shouting, “Yeah, man, preach that shit!”
Then there’s Hillary Clinton. Hardly a perfect person, but she’s talking about leveling the playing field so that everyone, regardless of race, religion or gender has an equal shot. She’s talking about taking back some of the money that the rich have strip-mined from this country and putting it to work rebuilding the infrastructure that the Republicans have let fall into ruin. She’s talking about making our children smarter and healthier. She wants to make sure that illness or the loss of a job doesn’t strip people of everything they’ve spent a lifetime building. She wants all those things that make that level playing field possible.
And there are people all across the country who are shouting, “But the emails! Benghazi!”
And what I keep hearing is, “But, but, she’s a girrrllll!”
Women have always been called the conscience of the human race. It has always been their job to make peace in the family, to make sure things were handled fairly. And all that was just fine as long as they didn’t have any real power. As long as it was confined to the home and men had, ultimately, the final say.
Now we have a woman running for president. Now we have a woman talking about bringing that sense of fairness to our country as a whole. Now it will be a woman who could have, if not the final say, then at least a Bully Pulpit from which to talk about fairness and concern for others.
And that scares a lot of people. People who’ve had it too good for too long. People who’ve gotten rich at others expense. People who thought they could shove their religion down other people’s throats. People who’ve felt justified in bullying others because they were of a different race, or religion, or sex.
Like I said, this election is a mirror.
We can look into it and deal with what we see – at least try to do better. Try to think of others as just as deserving of a decent life as we are.
Or we can run away with our fingers in our ears going “la-la-la-la.” We can pretend that we’re “voting our conscience” or that “there’s really no difference between the candidates.”
But the truth is much simpler. There are really only two viable choices in this election: Trump and Clinton. One of them will become president. Choosing Clinton means being prepared to do the hard work of ‘“personal growth” at the national level. Choosing Trump means running away and ignoring the pain of others.
Any other choice is an abdication of responsibility for what is probably the most significant decision this country has faced in its entire history.