How’s that for clickbait?
I am the old man and I tripped myself on my new pannier (saddle bags) as I dismounted at a busy intersection in DC on my way to work. My injury is a huge booboo on my knee, one that more than a week later is still weeping the gunk that will eventually harden into a scab.
The blow seems to have temporarily, at least, blocked the pain from the mild arthritis in my knee joint. It is not an arthritis treatment I recommend, though it seems to have fewer potential side-effects than the pharmaceuticals that are advertised on television.
In the process, I have found a metaphor for the current presidential campaign, which itself is a sort of oozing wound.
I imagine that a lot of Americans, particularly of the white persuasion, have been feeling the ache of anger and disappointment increase over the last number of years, finally catching up just a little to the people of color who know those aches like a family member. On the right (Donald Trump) and on the left (Bernie Sanders), candidates for president tapped into that anger and named the cause – Wall Street, Mexico, the one percent, Muslims, just to suggest a few. The rhetoric of outrage brought pain to the surface, like a knee scraping the pavement, and propelled one of those men to a nomination and the other to a position of influence.
We can decry the approach and, after the entertainment value of escalations subside, object to the further coarsening of public debate, but we cannot deny the pain. Come November 9, there will be no more candidates for the office, but the pain will not disappear. In fact, while it will take some time for the scrapes to scab over, the underlying pain, the arthritic pain, will come back.
So now is the time to start thinking about how we will deal with the wounds that have formed from the raucous contest to be President. How will we treat the pain we now know is there? Current polls suggest that the people who are newest to this discomfort will be further disappointed in the outcome of the election, but what brings them to the polls will be waiting for them when they emerge. And the people whose choice will likely triumph are already too cynical to believe that there is anything but more years of limping ahead of them.
This much is certain, even if the polls are wrong. Victory dances will not help, and neither will the continuation of the bad behavior that brought us to this point. The candidates and their surrogates will have some responsibility to heal the breach when the dust settles, but those of us who have a higher horizon than self-interest will be doing the heavy lifting.
Will we acknowledge the authenticity of the source of the raw anger? A loss at the polls is a repudiation only of a candidacy; a victory is the affirmation only of the majority. The people who have been stirred to action must not be told to go back to their homes and pretend it never happened any more than they should be promised that every little thing is going to be all right. If nobody is listening to anything but the noise of the campaign now, come November 9 it will be time to listen to each other for the good of the people and the good of the nation.
Now is the time to begin rehearsing the vocabulary of reconciliation so that we are ready to deploy it in every corner of the land. Much as we might like to believe otherwise, the work is not all in the hands of supporters of the Republican nominee, but it is no less in their hands than anyone else. The changes in our society – changes mostly for good, I believe – have made people used to privilege feel disenfranchised. It is irrelevant if they are correct, let alone deserving. They are no less part of the beloved community. And the targets of gratuitous campaign threats need to be reassured that they will not be chased away, isolated or taken from their families. They will not be subjected to special scrutiny. They will not be forced back into a time when the greatness of America was in a part of the bus where they had no seats.
Two months is not a lot of time to get ready. The faith communities of this country have a head start, in my humble opinion. Except for the minority who have locked the doors of their churches, synagogues and mosques to the self-evident truths of America, people of faith have been practicing the language of reconciliation for a long time. They have begun to practice it with their own faithful who have challenged the norms of love and doctrinal fidelity, and they have made steps, some of them tentative, toward those they define as non-believers.
But you need not be part of a people of faith to have faith in people. And you need not love God – or even believe in God – to love your neighbor. The person who votes for that man or that woman will be your neighbor still when the polls close.
That, then, is the analgesic. That is the bandage that will shelter the surface wound from becoming infected and festering. That is anti-inflammatory that will ease the underlying pain without the need to pick off the scab.
As for the old man on the bike, he now has a new mantra: “Don’t swing your leg back – slide forward and step over.” Next time: 27 Celebrities You Never Heard Of!!!