I don’t know my own country as well as I thought I did. In some ways we are strangers now, and I’ve been wrestling with the outcome of our national election to understand why I still feel so far away from the way things actually are.
I stayed up watching election returns last night until ten o’clock, when I decided that waking up this morning might feel like Christmas Day. Wow! Was I wrong or what? It was like waking up to find coal in my stocking with no explanation of what I had done to deserve it.
The myriad subterfuges and distractions by both political parties over the past year led me to misread and badly misinterpret the needs and desires of most of my fellow Americans. I saw their outward rage but failed to understand that their chief target was the status quo and its lingering, empty promises. I also neglected to grasp their profound nostalgia for a more stable America, one that existed before this present era of swift and extraordinary changes that, for many Americans, have made the world around them seem to be spinning out of control. Those needs required a revolution.
I omitted the strong factor of fear experienced by the working class, who find that “getting ahead’” is often only for other folks. My rose-colored glasses didn’t really see the terror through racial division and the ever-present, if subliminal, conviction that our Norman Rockwell, 1950’s, white- home, apple pie community was, to many, being sabotaged by a growing inclusion of Blacks, gays, Mexicans, Muslims, etc., (at least in the media), who were becoming a bit too uppity by enjoying more equal status and, therefore, had to be reviled by squinted info sources like Fox News, a media empire that has made The National Enquirer look like The New York Times.
In a subtler way, women themselves had to be punished for the supreme audacity of supposing they could actually be equal. Imagine a female who, instead of staying home to bake biscuits, was brilliant and courageous enough to be the leader of The Western World. This was simply too much for middle America to digest and short-circuited many brains in their monumental efforts to discredit and revile her, ignoring completely the great things she had done over many years and using nonsensical distractions against her over things only a tenth as dangerous as those done by male presidents of the past sixty years.
I finally reached the conclusion that the election process this time had less to do with actual issues than with fantasy and powerful emotions on the part of voters, who saw what they needed or wanted to see instead of checking facts carefully along the way. Myths are created when people need them and even need to believe them, good or bad. Demonizing with lies and tweaked “truths” became an art form during this election. The Republican candidate went over the top, hurling insults that sounded like a Las Vegas nightclub routine of Don Rickles or Redd Foxx that had nothing whatever to do with improving life in America. Denouncing the opposition reached a new political and moral low. Fear, misogyny, and racism became the ammunition sharpened and aimed carefully at everything and everyone outside Beaver Cleaver’s and Donna Reed’s households.
One of the greatest shocks for me was the cavalier way those calling themselves Christians excused the raw meanness of spirit of the man promising to “make America great again” as though Christ himself had been hijacked and replaced by some golden idol that could do no wrong and must be worshiped instead. I don’t think I was the only one to wear rose-colored specs. In the end, perhaps it’s really just about power and money, not about ideals, which in this election have taken on the nature of double-talk and hypocrisy.
The American philosophy of tolerance, charity, and equality has somehow, perhaps by anger, greed, fear, and ignorance, been packed away as though in some old cedar chest and replaced by things I cannot recognize. All I can do is wait and see what unfolds over the next four years. I’d be happy and grateful to find that even a pompous windbag filled with promises and empty catch-phrases could bring us together as a continuing and prosperous nation, but the word “together” no longer seems to have meaning in the new order, in which I fear we will be splintered and see mostly divisive chaos with only a very painful lesson to be learned before the next election (barring an impeachment process). The people have indeed spoken, but I fail to understand where they believe we’re going now as a country. JB