After the Balloons

By the time this newspaper is in your hands, the elections will soon be over.

I suspect you look forward to that day with as much yearning as I feel.

But the dark clouds that have gathered during this divisive presidential election will not, I fear, be magically swept away by the arrival of Nov. 9.

Regardless of which candidates you supported through the primaries and down the final stretch, you are probably pretty much disgusted with the entire race. That’s what national polls say. Given conversations I have had throughout these months, this appears to be true.

The toll has been high. Just among people I know, the costs of this election are astronomical. Not in dollars, but in emotional impact.

I have a 70-something friend, a lifetime voter, who has declared that while she will cast her ballot on the eighth, it will be the last time she ever will. Her declaration reflects nearly heartbreaking disillusionment and disgust.

Friendships have been severed along razor edges of party lines, and even within parties themselves. If I had a nickel for everyone who has told me that a candidate a friend supported revealed a dark, unacceptable side of that friend they had not known, my bank account would be significantly enriched.

“I just won’t be able to get past that. I’ll never feel the same about them,” goes the mournful refrain.

So where do we go from here? As a nation, and among ourselves?

I am not alone in asking such questions.

“Is Reconciliation Possible After the Election?” headlines a recent article in The New Yorker. Journalist Anand Giridharadas explores the question, and comes up with glimmers of light in the gloom.

He notes that after the firebombing of the local Republican Party office in Hillsborough, North Carolina, Massachusetts Democrat David Weinberger responded by starting a campaign on GoFundMe.

“This is not how Americans resolve their differences,” he wrote, calling for fellow Democrats and others to underwrite the reopening of the county GOP office.

In a matter of hours, Weinberger received responses from more than 500 contributors, raising some $13,000.

Weinberger called upon our better angels, and perhaps that is the secret of the thorny reconciliation path we must now walk. Can we move beyond exhortations of anger and hateful rhetoric to what really matters?

“The campaign has been an extreme example of what is wrong with our political system, including almost a complete lack of serious debate over the major questions facing our country,” wrote Stephen Kinzer, a senior fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.

In an attempt to find common ground, here’s a good start. According to a September Gallup poll, Democrats and Republicans have nearly-equal low rates of confidence and trust in the legislative branch of our government, 34 percent and 37 percent respectively.

In other words, most of us want Congress to stop playing at politics and to get on with the people’s business.

Maybe we can, together, demand that they do so.

 

Published in the Journal Opinion, “Rambling Reflections” column, 11/2/16. Copyright Nessa Flax, all right reserved. Please do not duplicate or distribute without permission.

 

 


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