For those of us Americans who are progressives in our political leanings, last night and today were hard indeed. It is not pretty to see those you support go down to defeat, while those who you believe are seeking to guide the Nation in the wrong direction triumph. I could write multiple versions of this post--the angry, splenetic one, the rhetorical firestorm, the wistful "if only they knew" one.
But what good would any of them do, for any of my readers or for myself.
We lost. We've won in the past, we may again. Or not.
I don't want to minimize my displeasure at this election, my conviction that this is a disaster in terms of our taking action on issues that I think are critically important--but those of you who read this blog, or know me in real life, know that.
So what's the point?
This: Be the change you want to see. Yes, vote; yes, organize; yes, do what you do. But do more: Live with your neighbors, work among them, find the little ways that you can make the world around you a little less cruel or ugly, and draw comfort from that. And remember that those with whom we disagree are not our enemies. If we think of them as enemies--why, that's what they'll be. Somewhere, somehow, we all need to stop the fire of righteous anger from burning down the house. Because we all have to live in it.
Think of what the fire-eating chaplain learns all too late after watching the execution of Joan in Shaw's Saint Joan:
THE CHAPLAIN [clutching at his hand] My lord, my lord: for Christ's sake pray for my wretched guilty soul.We are not yet among enemies, though our friendships may be more strained than they should be.
WARWICK [soothing him] Yes, yes: of course I will. Calmly, gently--
THE CHAPLAIN [blubbering miserably] I am not a bad man, my lord.
WARWICK. No, no: not at all.
THE CHAPLAIN. I meant no harm. I did not know what it would be like.
WARWICK [hardening] Oh! You saw it, then?
THE CHAPLAIN. I did not know what I was doing. I am a hotheaded fool; and I shall be damned to all eternity for it.
WARWICK. Nonsense! Very distressing, no doubt; but it was not your doing.
THE CHAPLAIN [lamentably] I let them do it. If I had known, I would have torn her from their hands. You don't know: you havnt seen: it is so easy to talk when you dont know. You madden yourself with words: you damn yourself because it feels grand to throw oil on the flaming hell of your own temper. But when it is brought home to you; when you see the thing you have done; when it is blinding your eyes, stifling your nostrils, tearing your heart, then--then--[Falling on his knees] O God, take away this sight from me! O Christ, deliver me from this fire that is consuming me! She cried to Thee in the midst of it: Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! She is in Thy bosom; and I am in hell for evermore.
And come back to the fray, and remember the words of the greatest conservative of history: