I had promised myself I would hold off on posting any substantial election postmortem until a week after the election, when tempers had cooled a bit. I’ve engaged in more political conversation in the intervening week than I’m proud of, but I’ve managed to hold off on the “what now?” post that has been brewing in my head. I’ve been gathering my thoughts and clarifying them through discussion on other people’s journals.
But now that the time comes, I’m not so sure I want to write it after all. Partly it’s because I fear this journal has veered off-course. But also because I just read a post by John Perry Barlow, and he says it so much better than I could. Follow that link. Here’s an excerpt to whet your apetite, but I urge you to read it in it’s entirety:
This young man had been trained to respect authority just as surely as I had learned to suspect it. Whatever our agreements, we would always be separate in that regard. It was something that had grown into him in his lower middle class Christian home in central Illinois, along with a good pitching arm, in the same way that Bohemianism had taken root in me during the 60’s. Morality and character are words that have subtly different meanings to each of us. And a lot of the divide has to do with the degree to which we are willing to admit the feminine into our natures. I think he suspects I’m a little too sensitive. It’s less about character and morality than it is about masculinity. We have different notions about what it is to be a man, and they are important to us.
But they don’t necessarily make a bad fella out of either one of us. We both represent aspects of the American psyche that need each other, the jock and the intellectual, the Boy Scout and the renegade, the guardian and the wild card. We both love this great and terrible country, even as we fear one another’s excessive influence on it, and part of what we love is the creative fever that arises from our division. As we need each other, however unwillingly, so America needs us both.
Perhaps it’s just the bargaining phase of grief, but I can see that one of the things I must do to feel less a stranger in my own land is to have more conversations like the one I had with Dale. Indeed, as I’ve said repeatedly before, we must do our collective best to shatter the fetters of intolerance and live more in the necessary amnesty of interdependence. We need to quit scaring each other. Both sides are convinced that the other is trying to impose his culture on us, whether by law or by Internet. Fear of the Other, whether Bush or bin Laden, whether terror without or terror within, has been murdering reason and civility in America. We need to look one another in the eyes and see the human being behind the enemy. If we’re not going to start shooting each other over the next 4 years, we will need to do that a lot.
At the very least, I need to take the other side seriously. Dismissing them as a bunch of homophobic, racist, Bible-waving, know-nothing troglodytes, however true that may be of a few, only authorizes them to return the favor. I don’t want somebody calling me a dope-smoking, fag-loving, one-worlder weirdo, however true that might be. We are all masks that God wears, whatever God that is. We might try to treat one another with according reverence. At least we might try to listen as though the other side might have a point.I truly think we all owe one another an apology.
That’s really all I wanted to say anyway. Like I said, read the whole thing, it’s worth it.