and then the morning arrived…

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… to a great gnashing of teeth, the pulling of hair, the tearing of garments and mounds of mournful wailing. This was soon followed by finger pointing and the start of the blame game. At least, that is what greeted me on Facebook this morning. I suspect this will go on for the next several more weeks.

I’m not making light of it… believe me. I totally understand the despair felt by this segment of the citizenry. But please remember this also happened 8 years ago with a different segment of the population. I only know this because I have friends on pretty much all sides of the political spectrum… it’s a perk of being an independent. That’s perspective, eh?

The winning candidate was not one I would have chosen either for very many reasons that would be moot to go into now. I can also say that for a fact, he wasn’t the choice of many friends who sway to his side of the aisle either. I also have friends who did vote for him but I chose not to hold it against them… because it was their right to vote for whomever they chose – that’s democracy.

At this point I realize some of you reading this might be entertaining the slight urge to smear runny dog-shit on my face the next time you see me. I urge you to read on… at least before acting on that.

You see, I first arrived in this land while the 1980 election cycle was playing out. I’ve lived through five different presidential administrations. I thought some were better than others and mistakes were made by each and every one.

In that time, I have observed:

  • That political discourse has gone from “a gentleman’s disagreement” to “hateful vitriol” from both sides of the aisle. And when the subject is broached in conversation, both sides of supporters will fiercely claim. “They started it first!” or “Ours is not as bad as theirs!” Really?!
  • That political divisions have also devolved into the ugly side of team sports mentality where winning now means the annihilation via smears of one’s opponent instead of the sound excellence of the argument… which hopefully leads to a compromised solution to the issue. Is it any wonder very little gets accomplished?
  • That political engagement by the citizenry occurs mostly on social media via memes, insults, and various forms of “armchair activism”… none of which accomplishes any change in the real world. Sure, on occasion an issue will arise and gain popular momentum to spur on actual (boots on the ground) activism and even accomplish changes to the law of the land. My point being there is more armchair activism than actual engagement.

If it is one thing I know it is that the price for a democratic society is both vigilance and engagement. Yes, as a system it is messy, unwieldy and often times mind numbingly slow. There are more stops than starts, ebbs and flows… but that’s democracy… it is a process… and it is never ending.

Many have forgotten that fact which sadly seems to have led to a sense of instant entitlement. Perhaps the instant gratification from the speed afforded us by technology has had something to do with it… or perhaps it is living in a longer stretch of better times? I don’t know.

And on vigilance… many were surprised by the voting turnout by those who have felt disenfranchised for far too long. Have short memories made us forget the clues provided by the tea party or occupy movements not too long ago? I don’t know.

What I do know is this… it is a speech I would give during the first class of the school year when I was teaching:

“When I was growing up halfway around the world, I always heard about equality and opportunity in America. When I got here I learned that opportunity wasn’t handed to you – but you could create it for yourself. And on equality… the only time you really are equal is when you are in school. Every time you don’t do the work or sluff off you are making yourself less equal than someone who has. Knowledge provides you with more choices.”

It is something I still believe.

True, this election is very different because unlike the five administrations I lived through before, this individual has had no record of public service. Should be interesting to say the least.

In all the time I’ve been here (and as recently as last night) I have heard the phrase, “this great American experiment” bandied about. I think we can all agree (and if those who voted him are to be honest with themselves) this experiment is about to get a rigorous workout.

There has been a lot of fear and projection of what may lie ahead. Let’s see how and if the system holds together.