It’s a funny thing about Facebook, though as I think about it – almost certainly not an accident. You get these update e-mails when the person you sleep next to every night or a random business acquaintance from eight years ago says something on the site. In the spirit of preserving what’s left of my information-addled brain I’ve gotten pretty good at ignoring the latter (although I’m not as successful at getting changes to my notification settings to stick) but I tend to pay attention to the former.
So I got this e-mail yesterday that said “Elizabeth Clark Craib (aforementioned co-sleeper) updated her status…Need someone other than Bill who….”
What? Travels too much? Snores too much? Looks less and less like Brad Pitt?
And this is the funny part, it’s where they get Ya. You can’t read the rest of it in your e-mail – you have to click through to the site and, not surprisingly to my mind, I wanted to find out what my wife needed someone other than me… for.
As it turned out, she wanted someone else to reassure her (after acknowledging that I was trying my best) that the results of tomorrow’s Presidential election won’t end the world as we know it (paraphrasing here.) Relieved that she wasn’t looking for something else and comforted that she hadn’t gone to Facebook to find it, I went back to packing for a business trip. But, as I was staring out the window on a five-hour bus trip to New York, I began thinking about how successfully I’ve convinced my wife that our world isn’t “going to hell in a hand basket.” On one level, I think I’ve done pretty well; I’ve at least convinced myself. I don’t think Wednesday is going to feel much different than Tuesday, regardless of who wins the election. March 2017 may not feel much different than January either. But at another level, I’m very afraid that our country is on the brink of, or already well en route to, a long slow decline that will spell the end of the golden age of our civilization.
That’s pretty depressing stuff and frankly, not all that different than what you can read on any of thousands of Internet comment threads of one form or another tonight. But know this about my version, if you don’t already- it comes from a place of unabashed and unconditional love for this, most amazing of political experiments- the United States of America.
I spent the last two hours walking downtown from the place where I was teaching my class today in Midtown Manhattan to my hotel in Battery Park. It was a gorgeous fall evening and walking down past the luxe stores of Fifth Avenue to Washington Square in Greenwich Village I could look up occasionally and see the Liberty Tower and be moved (to the point of tears as I write this) by the amazing strength and resilience of the American spirit. I’ve traveled our beautiful country from coast to coast more times than I can easily count and wondered long before I ever heard the term flyover states why anyone would choose to fly between those amazing coasts if they could drive (or take the train, or bike.. or walk!)
So if your response to this is..”we’ve still got it better than anyone else in the world,” then I believe you are right. But here’s the thing- two years ago I wrote this long treatise on some fundamental challenges we have as a nation and I can’t think of a single one that has gotten any better in those two years, or the two years before that, or the four before that, or the eight before that. If you’ve already read Finding America you probably remember it, for sheer verbosity if nothing else. If not, you’ll get the gist in the first few pages.
But I think it’s time for me to stop tilting at this particular windmill at this particular
time. My blog has not made much of an impact, I’m sorry to say. I’d like to think I’ll try again sometime armed with a better approach but in the meantime I have three asks of you for the days and months ahead and I hope you will consider them.
First – Vote tomorrow! At times people will say voting is a privilege. Bullshit. It is a responsibility – it’s part of living in this country as an American citizen. You need to choose the person you think is the best of the two viable choices we have to lead this country for the next four years. So if you, in your heart of hearts, believe that Gary Johnson or Jill Stein is the right person to be the next President of the United States then have at it –cajole your friends, press the button, pull the lever, fill in the box – whatever you’ve got –and try to put them into office. But if your vote is some kind of statement, or you are going to make a statement by writing in someone else (I’m looking at you Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz fans) or worst by not voting at all, then save your statement for the next election cycle when there will be plenty of opportunities to really get out there and do something. Making a statement at the polls is like a righty suddenly swinging lefty when they are behind 19-0 in the first inning. They want to take the sting out of their futility by poking fun at it, but really it’s all about them and that’s not fair to their teammates or their opponents.
Second – take a hard look, as hard a look as you can before you cast your ballot – at the person you are going to vote for in the House and, if one of your senators is up for reelection as odds are they will be, the Senate and ask yourself this question – Is this person going to contribute to a meaningful dialogue and COMPROMISE on issues of importance – or are they going to revert back to rhetoric (of any flavor,) which will be another way of saying – watch as another two years of nothing happens in Congress. If your candidate has been spending more time in this cycle talking about what they aren’t going to do than what they are – chances are they are the latter. If there’s another option – choose it. If not – start now and find one for 2018.
Finally, demand more from yourself…blah blah blah, I know – I’m about to lose you but I’m almost done so hold on. We need better sources of news about what’s going on in politics to make informed decisions at the polls. The toughest issues being debated in Washington at any given time are complicated, with compelling arguments on both sides, so if your news source is making it sound like there is only one side of the story that makes any sense then it’s time to call BS. Find yourself a source for news that isn’t all bluster and bravado and people’s opinions but is instead about fact…and support it. First and foremost by watching or reading (even if it’s.. gasp…boring or difficult) but also by subscribing or donating; it is hard to imagine many things better to spend a few dollars on than an objective source of news.
So that’s it folks. If you have read my rants on Project to Find America – you have my sincere thanks. If they have been any use to you, I am deeply and humbly satisfied. Godspeed tomorrow.
May God (continue to) Bless the United States of America