Regardless of the outcome of today’s election (I can’t believe I’m saying today’s election!), there are at least two truths that we will all wake up to tomorrow:
Half of America will be discouraged and maybe even resentful.
None of America’s problems will have been solved.
Perhaps because it is the culmination of nearly four years of politics at its most exhausting, this election day feels like it’s one of the most significant days in recent history. But as much as November 4, 2008 has been talked about, debated, anticipated, and feared, we must all remember: it is still only one day. It is the election of a president. It isn’t the changing of the world.
Sure, the electing of the U.S. President is hugely important. I don’t dispute that. But it takes more than a president to change things, and neither John McCain nor Barack Obama has the power to heal this country and this world alone. It’s kind of ridiculous, when you think about it, that we put so much energy, money, time, and emotion into the electing of one candidate. Between the campaigns of McCain, Obama, and Hillary Clinton, over $1 billion has been spent on this presidential race. What problems might have been solved, pain assuaged, or suffering ended with even half of that money?
Alas, what’s done is done. We must move on from here. The truth is, I don’t hold all that much hope for America, no matter who is elected. The problem is not with the skills or qualifications of the candidates. I trust them both. The problems are wider, more systemic, from Wall Street to Wasilla, Capital Hill to Coit Tower, sea to shining sea, and beyond.
The problem with America is not the ineptitude of Congress, though they are an ugly example of it. Our problem is that we can’t handle nuance. We’re too impatient for complexity, too lazy for sound reasoning, too selfish to give and take charity, too uneducated to know the much of anything about the economy (supposedly the issue most important to us), and too prone to think and be whatever the media says we are.
Last night I was at the Wilshire screening room for a press screening of Pray the Devil Back to Hell. A pair of particularly virulent Obama supporters sat behind me, and their chatter was predictable. “My dog is smarter than Sarah Palin,” one of them said. “She’s pure evil. I can’t understand how anyone could support her… I almost hope that if McCain is elected, something happens to him and Palin becomes president. Then people would see how stupid they were to vote for her.”
Horrifying comments like this are par for the course these days, on both sides of the aisle. Hateful words have been leveled against Obama by McCain supporters, just as these women expressed their despicable sentiments about Palin.
It was ironic that these comments prefaced a film as earnest and hopeful as Pray the Devil Back to Hell, a documentary about the women’s peace movement in Liberia, when Christian and Muslim women came together to pray and protest for peace in their country which was being torn apart by belligerent warring factions. America, so long defined by the sort of cyclical revenge/pissing contest mentality that ravages countries like Liberia, could learn from what these women did: they put their collective foot down and said “Enough! We have to stop fighting!”
I’m sure it’s impractical to hope that fighting and partisan dueling will stop completely in America, but I do hope that Americans will soon realize that—for the good of this nation, our children, our future—we have to put our foot down and take matters into our own hands. Governments around the world and throughout time have proven that they can’t make change nearly as readily or effectively as can the populace. That is, unless the populace is too lazy or ill-equipped to tackle problems and make progress.
The challenge moving forward is to quit spending so much time complaining about who’s in charge and what they’re not doing. We should instead spend our time and energy in learning how to solve problems ourselves, how to accept and understand the complexities of things, how to get our children educated and engaged in critical thought again. We should turn off cable news and rebel against the idiot media that insists on reducing the world to Joe the Plumber, Jeremiah Wright, and campaign wardrobes. We should demand that someone, anyone, tell us the truth, challenge us with an objective, nonpartisan, nuanced examination of the issues.
It’ll be hard, but we must accept the challenge. We must re-discover the beauty of reason, that we can and should think for ourselves; we must stop the politics of resentment and revenge and realize that love and charity will move far more mountains that moveon.org. We must stop our silly tendency to pin our hopes on one man, one ideology, one way to fix the problems in the world. That is, unless we’re talking about Jesus.