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Let the Healing Begin

This was the scariest election that I can remember. The nation is so polarized. Everybody was demonizing everybody else. People on both sides genuinely believed (and, I'm sure, still do believe) that the soul of the nation was in the balance. Huge proportions of the population woke up Tuesday convinced that they needed to speak up for the sake of the nation.

Here in my small town, with no local races on the battle except a zoning matter (whether we would allow smaller lot sizes in the center of town when most people live outside the center and wouldn't be affected) 83% of us voted. We're a pretty solid blue state. No one here felt that our presidential ballot would change the election results, and yet 83% of us came out. This was a passionate election.

It is done. I wanted to say that it's all done but the shouting and the counting, but I am terribly, terribly afraid that that would be prophetic. Because that is the last thing we need. We need to count every vote and make sure every voice is heard, but after the counting is done, we need to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start trying to build something together! We need to remember the old saying about hanging together lest we should hang separately. We're a country that has enormous will and energy, and a proud tradition of working together for common goals. Like siblings, we bicker, and grouse, and point fingers as we do it, but attack one of us, and the rest of us pile on the attacker. Lately we've been forgetting that. We've been forgetting that we're all in this TOGETHER. There's very little we can't do if we all work with a will for our common goals. If we concentrate on our commonalities, if we all concentrate on what we agree on, if we all agree to disagree with civility, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, nothing can stop us. Because that's who we are.

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campylobacter
Nov. 7th, 2012 05:58 pm (UTC)
I cringe every time someone crows "mandate" while this country is still split almost 50/50 over partisan politics. Have we lost the vocabulary for compromise? Why is meeting somewhere in the middle such a political liability?

4 more years of Congressional gridlock is going to hurt this country, and (quite frankly) destroy what's left of the obstructionist party.

But yeah, I'm relieved at the PotUS election results, too.
thothmes
Nov. 7th, 2012 07:28 pm (UTC)
Yeah. No mandate. I couldn't see a path to a mandate with the country so polarized. It just wasn't going to happen, and it hasn't.

People need to remember that if a compromise is crafted that makes both sides feel they need to hold their nose, it's probably the right thing to do, because both sides have given where it hurts to meet in the middle. Compromise is good and honorable, and as long as our elected officials can't see that and continue to act like toddlers in a rage and just repeat "No! No! No! No!" over and over, we're going to get nothing done, and we'll all suffer for it.

I think our only hope is if the majority of the country loses patience with gridlock and takes action by calling or writing their congressmen and senators, and demanding compromise. If toddlerocracy continues, that might just happen.
amenirdis
Nov. 7th, 2012 07:37 pm (UTC)
I'm relieved and happy that things came out the way they did, absolutely. But I don't think this actually fixes anything. We will still have gridlock in Congress, still have far too many bills for Congress to address in any reasonable fashion, still have honestly opposite regional interests, not to mention unaddressable issues of region and class. The thing that's broken is this -- unlike ten years ago, I no longer believe we should be one country. I think it would be better for everyone in every state if we ceased to be. I do not think the problems are solvable without a major overhaul, no matter who is elected or how positive their intentions.
thothmes
Nov. 7th, 2012 08:05 pm (UTC)
No, this doesn't fix things. The potential for gridlock, the near-inevitability of gridlock, is still there and looming. We still have thorny problems to address.

I may be a cockeyed optimist, but I think we have the power to change that. If the electorate gets thoroughly sick of gridlock, and resdiscovers the values and virtues of compromise, and they care enough about it to make their voices heard, by calling and writing their congressmen and senators, and demanding bipartisanship on individual pieces of legislation, if they demand that their representatives stop acting like toddlers with a new word ("No!") and do what's right for the country, then we can start to fix this.

I know that there are many things that militate against this, including the fact that many consitutents don't want to compromise, but I guess I have some faith in the quiet mass of sensible people, and some residual hope.

Time will tell. My country has disappointed me before (cf. Nixon), but I'm an optimist. Over time, demographice favor a conversation that moderates and skews a little further left. I keep hoping. We've come through before, and I don't want to give up on this country yet.
amenirdis
Nov. 7th, 2012 08:19 pm (UTC)
I think the problem is that honestly there are conflicting interests that are actual and insoluble. It's like a couple -- he wants to live in the city, she wants to live in the country. He wants kids, she hates kids. He wants to be monogamous and she wants to be polyamorous. He wants to be a dog breeder and she's allergic to dogs. He's an Orthodox Jew and wants to keep Kosher in the house. She's Pagan. He wants to travel. She wants a house to live in for the rest of her life. None of these things is bad, but these people should divorce. There are no choices they can make that won't make one of them miserable, and no compromises are possible that don't injure one of them. The best thing for everybody is if they divorce as quickly and civilly as possible, rather than that they spend their lives trying to force the other one to live according to their wishes. That's not free. That's not even fair. Fair is an amicable parting, with the understanding that it's ok for different people to want different lives.
thothmes
Nov. 7th, 2012 11:22 pm (UTC)
Well one problem I see with this divorce is that he would get a big red swath down the middle, and she would get both coasts. Not a very viable arrangement! Just look at how it worked for East and West Pakistan. I just don't see us doing that. I think we'll continue to rub along as best we can.
amenirdis
Nov. 7th, 2012 11:41 pm (UTC)
Or maybe there are three entities. Or four. Or five. But the way we're going the only answer is to continue fighting as one group or another attempts to force the whole to be what they are. That's not working and it's wrong.
thothmes
Nov. 8th, 2012 02:37 am (UTC)
Maybe it's because I come from several sides of horrific conflicts (Protestand and Catholic Irish, Northern and Southern sides of the Civil War, British and Scottish side of the border, I could go on) I'd rather see us work it out, and I have hope that we can learn that cooperation and compromise are the way. Maybe I'm unrealistic and Pollyannaish, but I also can remember a day when gay rights were utterly nonexistant, and open scorn and reviling was almost universal, and that was in my lifetime. Humans can change attitudes and learn. We CAN do better.
amenirdis
Nov. 8th, 2012 11:55 am (UTC)
Yes, it's possible we can compromise. Millions of people can give up things that are important to them, their homes, their religions, their ambitions, their ways of life. It is possible to compromise by enormous and unnecessary sacrifice.

Just like a marriage, where it's possible to stay together if each person gives up their hopes, their ambitions, their beliefs,and their desires for the future to create a mediocre compromise that satisfies no one and makes both unhappy. They're married! But they're miserable.

We're married but we're miserable. How about, instead of either you or I forcing the other to change, we go our separate ways respectful of each others choices? How about you and I agree that you get your life and I get mine, and we can each do what makes us happy, rather than spending decades trying to force each other to "compromise?"

It isn't better to stay married for the sake of being married at all costs. And it isn't better to stay one country at all costs. Look at the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic. Or Canada and Britain. Or Australia. Sometimes it's best to part friends rather than to live as enemies.
thothmes
Nov. 8th, 2012 09:02 pm (UTC)
I guess that part of the reason I'm more optimistic than you are is that I just don't see the level of misery you do. I see disagreement, I see a certain level of discord, but not misery, and not irreconcilable differences.

Also, if we go our separate ways, we lose out on a number of advantages out size and geographic spread gives us. The large resources of all of us, pooled together, can do things that individual sections cannot. We don't always do what we can or what we should, but the potential is there. As separate ideological fragmented countries, we would never be self-sufficient in the way that we are now.
amenirdis
Nov. 8th, 2012 09:13 pm (UTC)
I see misery. Not only in my region, but I found it very telling that when I put up the poll about changing our form of government, every single person from a plains state said that they would unequivocally change it now. The northeast benefits the most from being one country. But the other spouses are pleading, please let us out of this partnership that does not benefit us and that in many ways hinders our economic growth and development.

For example, if Louisiana owned their own offshore oil reserves and could charge New Yorkers what the oil is actually worth on the open world market, gas would cost the same amount in New York as in London -- $6 a gallon. And Louisiana would be able to afford good schools and excellent levees and all the flood control they want. But they don't own their own natural resources and they can't set fair prices for their products and labor. They can't slap a $3 a gallon excise tax on their gas the way that Venezuela can.

And yes, I totally get why New Yorkers would oppose letting the deal go. They profit enormously from internal colonialism. Imagine if they had to pay what people in London pay! But it's not a good deal if you live in Louisiana, and it's not fair.

Or insert western mineral wealth. Or foodstores from my state that can't be grown in Maine. We can't charge what we'd charge if we were exporting them, and so our wages are kept artificially low to keep prices artificially low in the northeast. You'd be paying for orange juice what Londoners pay for orange juice from Israel if you paid a fair price to Florida growers.

No, not a good deal at all for us!
thothmes
Nov. 9th, 2012 02:19 am (UTC)
I don't think you see the Northeast from a local point of view. You see our image based on the cities of BosWash and the suburbs immediately surrounding that. There is some deep rural poverty up here, and plenty of people have trouble paying for good schools up here too. Just ask the folks of the Adirondacks, or the coal country of Pennsylvania. We're all in this together. My immediate neighbors sell their milk for very little over what it costs to produce it because there is city-country colonialism within the region.

And if what you mean by New York is New York City, they don't care so much about the price of gas for their cars. They have a good public transit system, and car ownership is low. They'd just complain about how crowded the subways are now that the busses and cabs have become so pricey that only the wealthy can take them. New York City is not at all like Upstate. At all. If anyone needs a divorce, it's those two, but then the city would parch to death (the reservoirs that supply it are in Upstate New York) and go under fiscally, because they would have no state aid for infrastructure and schools.

Do we really want a trade war where Florida jacks up oranges while Wisconson and Vermont jack up milk, cheese, and maple syrup? Where everything we use is more expensive and we don't get the benefits that working together brings? Where people who come from several regions of the country are left stateless or forced to choose between their current location and where they grew up, and where they started out married life and had their first children (who would then be citizens of that part?). Ugh.

I still think the United States of America is, not the United States of America are.

Edited originally becawse speling and getttting kydds to bedde doen't worke wel togethur, and then I added a phrase here and there, because they occurred to me.

Edited at 2012-11-09 03:35 am (UTC)
amenirdis
Nov. 9th, 2012 09:54 am (UTC)
Yes, I do want a trade war, if that's what you mean by everyone being paid a fair price for their labor and their resources!

I think it is a basic human right, and one we uphold worldwide, that the people who live there have a right to control their own resources, to tax those resources at a fair world price rather than be forced to sell cheap to people who live thousands of miles away, and to make their own laws.

Back to the marriage analogy -- if you want us to stay, woo us. Show us the advantages of staying, rather than saying, "Stay or else!" Right now there's precious little in this marriage for us, and "you have to stay because we believe you ought to" is pretty much worthless.

And that's not at all the sound coming out. You've seen my links to the Washington Post and elsewhere. We can read. And we know exactly what people think of us and the contempt our spouse holds us in. Why would we stay married to someone who speaks of us with contempt and despises us? Why would anyone stay in a marriage with someone who treated them that way?

I think that's why the enormous success of the Hunger Games. It's emotionally plausible that people from the northeast would watch a reality tv show about kids from Appalachia killing one another on camera. Yeah, to teens here, that seems pretty likely. It's emotionally true.
thothmes
Nov. 9th, 2012 06:15 pm (UTC)
I despise no one, nor do I have contempt for anyone. I don't think folks around here do. The folks who despise you and have contempt for you are the big city cultural elite, people who have made it in their field, whether it be entertainment, journalism, or another field, people who are convinced that sophistication and being part of the in-crowd is what matters.

I'm by no means saying "Stay or else!" I'm saying that I don't see that level of unhappiness, and remember I have relatives in Richmond, Chapel Hill, Charleston, Houston, and elsewhere in the South. I have relatives in Chicago and Cleveland, and friends in Michigan, Wisconson, Minnesota, and Iowa. I'm saying that I don't see what you suggest happening. I defend to the death your right to agitate for it. I just think that if you put it to a vote today you'd get a resounding "No" vote. I am not raising the Blues to come and fight your Greys. And if there was a referendum and a plurality there voted to secede, I wouldn't raise them then.

Please remember, wherever else I've lived, now I'm from Vermont, and I really don't think that my small state, where people by and large are pretty open minded, despises anyone or treats anyone badly.

We'd like you to let us have a bit more LIHEAP money when oil prices spike so our old folks and the poor don't freeze because of tension and strife in the Middle East, but I'm sure there are similar feelings about keeping the AC on in midsummer down there. We don't want to keep you down, in thrall to us in some form of colonialism. We're colonists ourselves We feel no contempt. We don't treat you badly.

Edited at 2012-11-09 06:18 pm (UTC)
amenirdis
Nov. 9th, 2012 06:27 pm (UTC)
Let me be clear -- I don't think that you, personally, have contempt for anyone. But as you say, the big city elite does. You've seen the articles I link to -- a tiny fraction of the ones published every day. I've experienced it working in DC -- several times a week someone would treat me with utter contempt because of my accent, or would make disparaging remarks in front of me while bragging about how liberal and progressive they were.

And no, people aren't ready to go. But that anger is what is fueling the Tea Party movement. The main reaction from the Left seems to be, "Well, those people are just crazy racists, and there isn't a problem." There is a problem. And we have to solve it, not ignore it. That means wooing, not disparaging. It means asking nicely instead of ordering. It means behaving like a good spouse instead of an abusive one. Because otherwise not today, but someday, the wife will walk. And younger people who are growing up with the Hunger Games and its revolution as a defining cultural mythology on the level of Star Trek or Star Wars will find that solution much more reasonable than their elders.

The other thing is that if change is to happen, the lifestyle of the northeast corridor must change. It must. It is not possible to have a part of the country whose lifestyle is enabled by cheap food and commodities from other sections. And yes, Vermont raises food. But can Vermont feed the entire New York metro area alone and forever? Much less the rest of the northeast corridor?

Those areas are not sustainable, and can only exist by exploiting other regions. The two hour commutes of suburbs from Boston to DC are made possible by cheap gas. The concentration of population that can't possibly feed itself is made possible by long distance truck farming of cheap food. That has to change. And if it doesn't change gradually, eventually it will change drastically.
thothmes
Nov. 9th, 2012 10:56 pm (UTC)
Let me be clear too. I didn't think you thought that about me personally. I hope that enough of me shines through what I say on line that you would know that I am not that sort of person. What I was pointing out, perhaps less than elegantly and eloquently, is that around here there most people are among the scorned, although they don't have the level of anger that you feel about it. They see the scorn and the mocking in remarks from people who have moved here "from away" who make remarks like "I'm always amazed at the amount of talent that was on display at the Community Showcase! There are people who are really good out there!", as if rural folk were too busy stagnating in their backwater to develop talents. We live in the country, so we must lack culture, sophistication, and initiative.

You have reached the point where you are mad as hell about it and aren't going to take it anymore. Around here we just do a lot of *headdesk** and think Flatlanders! They really don't get it, do they? We tend to be less offended, I think because we view the deficit (and the loss) as theirs. This is the other side of the "We're hicks and we know it." People around here know their worth too, and if the rest of the world underestimates us, they are the ones who lose. More for us! We don't want the entire city decending on us, unless it's for a short stay in fill-in-the-blank season, and they buy our stuff, eat at our Community Suppers, and go away again.

I think the struggle is in many ways an urban vs. rural one, and a Bible Belt vs. Humanist one, which is perhaps why you feel the divide more clearly where you are, because Vermont may be rural (and thus scorned as hicks) but we have a large majority of humanists, although the Baptist church is still big here, and the local Congregational church is very, very conservative.

Back when Eldest Daughter was small, the church was on the ascendant, and Halloween was endangered here, but fears of lurking Satanism have largely dissipated, and even the minister's wife now agrees it's mostly good clean fun, so there is a strain of evangelical Christianity here, but it is less dominant than it is in the Bible Belt proper.

When my mother-in-law was born the nation was still 90% rural. Now only one in 5 Americans lives in a rural area. That's a fast change, and we are feeling the growing pains. I suspect that these things will iron out and calm over time. I suspect though, that it will be because rural workers will do things like forming cooperatives that withhold goods until they get a fair value for what they produce, or because enough people find that they cannnot make a living producing, so their pay is raised so that people don't stop providing the things that cities need.

People in cities will continue to see us as ignorant hicks, and I suspect that this will get worse before it gets better, because in 1930 chances are that the person next to you was raised in the country. Now that's a rarity, and it will get increasingly so.

Edited at 2012-11-09 10:58 pm (UTC)
a_loquita
Nov. 7th, 2012 08:31 pm (UTC)
Very well said!
thothmes
Nov. 7th, 2012 11:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
rdamel
Nov. 8th, 2012 03:56 am (UTC)
We can definitely do better, and I so wish those in the govt. would see what I feel--which is that most people would rather get along, and work for the common good, and they need to start doing that, and pulling together, rather than this constant fighting, which drives me nuts!

You have many good points and I'll be writing to my representatives and reminding them to DO Something, and to quit fighting!

I was so relieved that here in Missouri (where I, a moderate Democrat, have somehow become a minority) we did wake up enough to NOT elect that ignoramus, Todd Akin! He scared me to death!
thothmes
Nov. 8th, 2012 04:34 am (UTC)
Many states seem to have found right-wing Republican men who made unfortunate comments about rape and rape victims to be a bit more than they could swallow this election cycle. Its almost as if both women and the men who love and respect them have the vote these days!

The power and influence of the far right in American politics has grown amazingly since I graduated college in 1980, and the left has weakened proportionately. I take comfort in the fact that these things tend to go like sine waves, and just as the center of political gravity has shifted right, it is likely to shift left, if only I am patient and live long enough. Each generation needs to make their own discoveries and discard the old ways. Somehow the wisdom of moderation in all things (excepting human rights - those are absolute and inalienable) gets lost in the swing of things. We'd all be better off if more of us could keep that in mind!
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A Few Words from the Wise

Speak to him, for there is none born wise.

-The Maxims of Ptahotep

~~~~~~~~~~


In mourning or rejoicing, be not far from me.

- an Ancient Egyptian Love Song

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But your embraces
alone give life to my heart
may Amun give me what I have found
for all eternity.


-Love Songs of the New Kingdom, Song #2

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To Know the Dark


To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is travelled by dark feet and dark wings.


-Wendell Berry

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Up in the morning's no for me,
Up in the morning early;
When a' the hills are covered wi' snaw,
I'm sure it's winter fairly.

-Robert Burns

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Visit to the Hermit Ts'ui


Moss covered paths between scarlet peonies,
Pale jade mountains fill your rustic windows.
I envy you, drunk with flowers,
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