Reality TV Show President

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.

November 9

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.