I used to wonder what it might have felt like to be a person living through any of those paragraphs about awful things that happened in my American history textbooks. Turns out, it feels pretty miserable.
Yet another mass shooting in an American high school. That’s eight in the first seven weeks of 2018.
Facebook is torn up with people pressing their hopes and prayers for the family while chastening anyone who suggests there are actual solutions to curb some of this violence. My own senator has tweeted his thoughts and prayers while his own pockets are lined with cash from the gun lobby.
My prayers are with the victims of the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and their families.
— Sen. Lamar Alexander (@SenAlexander) February 14, 2018
You have taken $14,850 from the NRA. The third most of active politicians in TN. @MarshaBlackburn leads the state with $30K from NRA. 9,900 NRA dollars is on the ledger of @SenBobCorker. This is on all of you.
— Kim Bernstein (@kimbernstein11) February 15, 2018
This doesn’t happen in other countries. We like to say America is a Christian nation, but we are doing it wrong.
“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17
Back in November, slightly less than half of American voters elected our first reality TV show president. For many, it was a genuinely painful choice. They didn’t like their options, but, since America is an Option A or Option B kind of place, they held their nose and pressed what they hoped would be the least bad button. You know the rest.
Since November, I have come to realize that many hoped the button they were pushing was connected to much needed change. Some saw their choice in terms of Ultimate Washington Insider vs. Ultimate Washington Outsider. Some thought they were voting for a successful business executive. That’s completely understandable. There are very tall buildings all around the world with his name on them. He had casinos and a university. Who am I to know if any of these ventures are actually successful? You don’t see my name on the top of tall buildings, casinos and universities.
Unfortunately, those who voted for the successful business executive got the reality TV star, instead. Now, we all find ourselves trapped inside a reality TV show. The usual rules of logic, evidence and careful deliberation do not apply. Facts are debased. Conflict is amplified.
Fans of reality TV know how this goes. There is no script. All that matters is a compelling, engaging narrative every day with obvious heroes and villains. When the story goes stale, the conflict is easily refreshed with a few well-placed tweets. This story will be a shambling, nonsensical cascade of escalating conflict and aggrievement until the season ends or the show gets canceled.
In the meantime, we are all trapped inside. I never hoped to be in a reality TV show, but now that I’m here, I’m desperate to know which TV show this is so I can understand the rules.
The White House itself seems to operate like The Apprentice. Each week, the cast is given an impossible, ridiculous task, and, each week, someone hear’s the unfortunate, but expected tagline: “You’re fired.”
Congress seems to operate like Big Brother. A crowd of mismatched strangers forced to get along without any real purpose or sense of direction except trying not to look like a total loser on live TV.
The rest of us, I fear, are Naked and Afraid. There are no tools. There are no ready-made shelters. We’ve just got each other and the ever-present hope that, if we work together and stay focused, someone will eventually show up in a rescue jeep, boat or helicopter before we die of starvation, bacterial infection, or get eaten by wild animals.
I stayed up until 2am this morning watching election returns and woke up in a world that feels very unfamiliar to me. I’m not sure what to feel or what I’m meant to be doing.
This tweet from last night says it pretty well:
You scared? Don’t know who to trust? Feel like you’re surrounded? Congrats. You’ve been a minority for like an hour.
— Myles Brown (@mdotbrown) November 9, 2016
But the country isn’t all that different. Things haven’t actually changed that much. Yet.
Here’s Nate Silver’s take:
Something to remember: Whatever your feelings about the state of the country right now, it’s fundamentally not that different a place whether the final call is that Clinton has narrowly won or narrowly lost. Add just 1 percent to Clinton’s vote share and take 1 percent away from Trump’s, and she would have won Florida and Pennsylvania, therefore would probably have been on her way to a narrow Electoral College victory.
Apparently, the Canadian Immigration Services website crashed last night from heavy traffic. Last week I joked with my most liberal friends about packing go bags and digging bunkers. That doesn’t feel funny anymore.
I’m not going anywhere. I love this country. I am a product of what is great inside America. You are too. I’m staying because there is urgent, important work to be done.
Too many of us live in fear. We live in fear of violence in our communities. We live in fear of racial persecution. Some of us live in fear of the police and civil authorities. This is wrong. We can’t let this continue.
We urgently need leadership from the best among us. This includes women, people who aren’t white and homosexuals. We should judge people based on the quality of their actions and their ideas. We should find and follow the people with the ability to move us forward. We aren’t there yet.
Diversity makes us stronger. We are a nation that attracts and welcomes immigrants from all parts of the world. We need to keep our doors open to them. The people who move to America from other countries bring with them their best selves, their highest hopes and an eagerness to participate and contribute. When we allow them, they make America stronger and reinforce the world’s belief that America creates opportunity.
Abortion is a terrible thing. Nobody likes abortion. Nobody wants women to have abortions. But, women must remain in control of their own bodies. This is a most basic freedom. Doctors, lawyers and politicians should not be usurping the most personal, vulnerable decision a person can make. Restricting access to abortion and birth control will kill women and children. We should focus instead on increasing access to birth control and providing real support for women faced with impossible choices. We should provide meaningful help for children born into families that are not ready or able to give them a good start.
Oh, and science isn’t a belief system. Science is a systematic way of looking at the world to describe what’s happening based on observable facts. Climate change is happening and no amount of wishful thinking is going to blunt the effects for my daughter and the children in your life that you hold most dear.
Our worldview has darkened. The work ahead is daunting. I am very, very scared.
Its time to close our Facebook and Twitter feeds and actually start talking to one another while being brave enough to look each other in the eyes.
It is time to stop paying so much attention to the carnival of political personalities and start grappling with real issues.
There is a lot of difficult work ahead. We’ve got to focus on that.
If you are able to look me in the eyes and talk with me so we can figure out these things together, then we are on the same team. If you can’t, kindly step aside. We don’t have much time.
America is already great. Let’s remind each other of that in the weeks and months ahead. Let’s work together to keep it that way.
We need to talk about November 9. In just a few days, Americans will elect a new president and members of Congress. I used to look forward to Election Day and feel proud of our participation in choosing our leaders and helping in some small way set the direction of our country. Today, I feel sick with anxiety, dread and fear. I can’t stop myself from refreshing the 538 Election feeds and trying to discern what the numbers mean. I’m scared. You may be too.
Here’s the thing. You and I may be feeling the same way even while supporting opposite candidates. I support Hillary Clinton and desperately hope she wins on Tuesday. But, I have wasted so much time this election focused solely on my fear of Donald Trump and his message and not enough time articulating what I support in Hillary Clinton. Your doing it too. Its in our Facebook and Twitter feeds. Donald Trump scares me. Hillary Clinton scares you. Everybody is scared.
Our fear makes our world smaller. Many of my friends and family have become strangers to me. People I care about deeply. People I know to be good, thoughtful, caring people. From time to time, that fear becomes anger and those people feel like enemies to me. You may be feeling that too.
We are not enemies.
You and I have wicked problems to solve.We don’t know how to talk about race and gender. We don’t know how to talk about the role legal immigration plays in our country. Too many of us live our lives warped by constant fear of violence at home and abroad. For too many people, hard work and personal sacrifice no longer allows access to the American Dream. Job markets have changed. Despite the growing strength of our economy, access to economic opportunity is unequally distributed. Higher education is broken. Climate change is a real thing that is actually happening. The list goes on.
For the most part in this election, we haven’t been talking about these things. We haven’t allowed ourselves. We haven’t known how.
You and I need to start talking about November 9 because, no matter what happens, we are going to need to find a way to start understanding each other again. Whoever is elected needs to govern. The President alone cannot fix these problems. Congress alone cannot fix these problems. Its us. We’ve got find a way to start fixing these problems.
So I want you know this. I oppose Donald Trump and the vision for our country he represents. But you and I are not enemies. I want to understand you. I want you to understand me. We’ve got to start talking again and trying to find our way forward.
I wish peace and comfort to all of us in the days ahead. Let’s work to help that happen.
May it be so.