“The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. The time to build is upon us.” – Nelson Mandela
When I began writing a regular newspaper column a few years ago and now, fortunate to be writing for The Clarksburg Post, from the beginning I decided I would avoid headline news. I thought it rather easy to grab a headline and give an opinion. Today, when I open a major newspaper, and go to the editorial section, I see stories written by local and syndicated writers, all giving their own spin on events. Not taking anything away from these award-winning writers, I just wanted to be more creative.
I wanted my stories to be different. I sought to make them personal, inviting people to think about their own lives and communities. My goal was to encourage people to think.
However, as we approach an historic presidential election, I ‘think’ it is time for me to become personal – personal about this election. For my entire adult life, I have been a student of political science. It was one half of my college major. I taught the subject for 17 years. I have helped manage political campaigns at the local level. And, even though I retired from teaching in 2003, I still consider myself a student of politics. It is fascinating. Frustrating. And, even with all the hate, vulgarity, lies, insults, and smoke and mirrors associated with this presidential election, I still believe in our system of government. Yes, we will rise from the ashes. Even these ashes.
However, I can, with all honesty say this presidential election has been an embarrassment. An embarrassment to our country and an embarrassment abroad. People Sandra and I know in Canada and Europe write, “What is happening in your country?” “I’m glad you have Trump and not us.” “Margaret Thatcher she’s not,” referring to Clinton. “You have a liar behind one podium and a bully-bigot behind the other. That’s sad. America is better than that.” Strange as it may seem, I agree with them when it comes to deciding between two undesirables.
It has become comically sad – a dark comedy. Visualize this political cartoon: Four of our founding fathers (Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington) sitting together at Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg, Virginia. A newspaper sits on the table between them with this headline “Trump bashes…Clinton refuses…” Three of our founding fathers hang their heads. Franklin, looking at the barmaid says, “More rum…much more!”
I wish the election was tomorrow – to ease the pain and begin the healing. This has become one of the most divisive elections in decades. Divisive to the extent the emphasis seems to focus on the personal and not policy. It reminds me of our own Civil War. Pitting brother against brother. Father against son. Husband against wife.
On social media, I have witnessed friends viciously attack one another’s personal views. For my part, I do not feel Facebook, Twitter, etc. were created so people could hurl vile accusations. Or post repulsive cartoons degrading core values. I read, from well-educated people, the most absurd comments. And I think, “How can you say that! The evidence, logic and facts prove otherwise.” Still, the venom continues to spew. But, we must remember: We have the First Amendment and must respect what it protects – Freedom of Speech. Be thankful, even if you feel it is misused. I have known people who have escaped repressive regimes who had no freedoms and feared daily for their lives.
One observation I find incredibly interesting, particularly on social media: People are so quick to criticize Trump and Clinton. Yet, I seldom see posts, with specifics, about why they support Trump or Clinton. I once declared a moratorium on ‘hate and ugly’ and asked people to tell me why they have chosen their candidate. I emphasized: Do not quote party slogans. Do not paraphrase a headline. Give me well thought through reasons why you feel Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton should be president. I received no response(s). One conclusion: People are going to vote against one candidate and not for a candidate.
I listened to all three debates and I must admit, I was truly unimpressed. There was no winner or loser, despite what comes from both camps. I feel many people were watching and anticipating a total meltdown and not concerned about policy details. Side Bar: One feature I would like to see introduced in debates is a microphone “Kill Switch.” When one has exceeded time, cut off the microphone. When one begins to interrupt or both interrupt, cut off the microphone. Somehow courtesy and decorum must be reintroduced into public debate. If the candidates will not do it voluntarily, let the moderator take control. The networks have this capability already. Why not extend this capability to civilize public debate.
Putting aside all the insults and tabloid accusations coming from both candidates, each made promises they know (Constitutionally) they cannot keep without the approval of Congress. Saying they are going to raise or lower taxes, increase or decrease the size of the military, build a wall or repeal Obamacare, create a path for citizenship and create more jobs – this is simply campaign rhetoric telling voters what they want to hear. Or, what they think they want to hear. None of this can possibly happen without Congressional support. And I mean bilateral support. Republicans and Democrats focused on the same goal and finding a way. And, we must find a way.
To build a wall – needs Congressional support. To reform immigration – needs Congressional support. This is why we have “Checks and Balances.” An assurance one branch will never hold too much power. Certainly, our system is imperfect. But, look around the world. America is the best choice – even if many of our politicians, not statesman, are more concerned about the next election than the next generation.
This is, without a doubt, the first presidential election in which I will participate where neither candidate has my full and unquestioned support. I expected better, we deserved better from each party. But, as I told my political science students year-after-year, “Pick one! You may not like either candidate but one is going to win. One will lose. And ‘the beat goes on.’ So, do your part – It’s a privilege and a right.”
With a certain amount of confidence, I predict this will be the single largest voter response since the Kennedy-Nixon election in 1960, surpassing that 62.8% turnout. A given: Controversy creates interest. Interest means people will turn out to vote. And these candidates and campaigns have certainly created controversy. Donald Trump has offended almost every class of American people, except for white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, males. Yet he continues to say, he can bring Americans together. Hillary Clinton’s honesty, integrity, and leadership has come into question over issues from private servers and emails to her ability to protect Americans overseas. Yet, she asks for our trust.
Nonetheless, putting aside all the lies coming from each camp, both have admirable qualities: Trump; Wharton Business School graduate, displays enormous confidence, successful business man, and certainly he is resilient. He is an independent thinker and he dares to dream. We have only had five people elected to the presidency who never held an elected office before, Dwight Eisenhower being the last. The others were Zachary Taylor, Ulysses Grant, William Howard Taft, and Herbert Hoover.
Clinton also has many admirable qualities: Yale Law graduate, spending much of her early law career fighting for children and the underprivileged; First Lady for eight years, United States Senator from New York, serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee and others; And, was Secretary of State. On paper, she is the most qualified to run for the office in recent memory, if not ever.
Both have personal and professional qualities which could lead to a successful presidency. The question we must ask ourselves is, “Which do I trust with my future… and my children’s future?” For me personally, November 8 cannot come too soon. I just want the hate and ugliness to come to an end. It is time we put down our acid-filled pens and begin to heal.
We need to begin to heal as a nation. Families need to reconcile. Friends need to remember why they became friends in the first place. We must move forward. Regardless of the election outcome. Congress must come together not as Liberals, Democrats, Republicans, or Conservatives. But as Americans. Americans who will disagree on methodology, but are willing to work toward one goal.
In eight days, we will be at the crossroad of our future. We must choose wisely. With that being said, I leave you with these words. “We stand at the crossroads, each minute, each hour, each day, making choices. We choose the thoughts we allow ourselves to think, the passions we allow ourselves to feel, and the actions we allow ourselves to perform. Each choice is made in the context of whatever value system we have selected to govern our lives. In selecting that value system, we are, in a very real way, making the most important choice we will ever make.” – Benjamin Franklin.
I have made my choice. God bless America. And, we will “Rise from the Ashes.”
Until next time,