War and Peace

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Women of my family celebrated birthdays and witnessed a historic moment this week, as Hillary Clinton became the first woman presidential nominee of a major political party. Maybe there’s a future president among my nieces, as well.

Anyone else find themselves wishing November were here so we could get these elections over with?

In my case, I’ve been watching the current presidential race since summer 2015. I remember when Sanders and Trump announced their candidacies; I thought both of them unlikely to get very far, for entirely different reasons. The Trump bid seemed like a hoax; the Sanders bid well-intentioned but ill-fated.

At least I wasn’t the only one misreading the signs.

By the time the primary season started this past spring, I’d already spent a lot of time listening to and researching the candidates. Just as Bernie’s star began to rise, I decided to get off his bandwagon and give my support to Hillary. Don’t get me wrong; I would have gladly voted for Bernie this November, but for many reasons I won’t bother you with here, Hillary earned her spot as my preferred candidate.

In my family, we have both Hillary and Trump supporters (and a few Bernie fans, as well). It’s a delicate balance to be in. Like most mid-westerners, we maintain an uneasy peace by avoiding direct confrontation over the matter. This may sooth family divisions, but sometimes the silence starts to eat away at you inside.

I think my family probably isn’t unique in this; that maybe the habit of silence among loved ones is a factor that pushes Americans to argue politics (and other things) on the internet, where many can vent pent-up frustration without facing the terrible Freudian consequences of upsetting people close to them.

When I do talk to friends and family about the election, I see buttons being pushed all over the place. I’ve read a lot lately that this election is about “feelings”, but I think it runs deeper than that. It’s as if each and every one of us has a raw nerve (or two) that’s been exposed by the issues at stake; and the candidates that have climbed to the top of the race have a rare gift for poking at those nerves.

Last weekend, I confronted myself about this. My emotional stake in the 2016 election is higher than it’s ever been. I’m stressed about this race. It’s safe to say I may even be losing sleep over it. I’m certainly starting to get angry with people who don’t see things my way, something I am not prone to do. This is not a situation I want to sustain through November, so I need to figure out what’s getting under my skin and what I can do to better manage it.

It didn’t take me long to identify my raw nerve. It has to do with a deep, visceral revulsion toward anyone who attempts to fan the fires of nationalism over a foundation of racist and bigoted rhetoric. I was born to a family who survived the worst possible nightmare under such a leader in the mid 20th century. I grew up learning about the real cost of hate to both victims and perpetrators, and I’ve never been under any illusion as to how easily the madness can take hold, even in a great nation like the United States of America. 

So at times I feel like weeping when I consider what’s happening inside the GOP today. Once a party of great traditions, the GOP lost its spine years ago. Now, it has lost its soul. I remember the millions who suffered and died in order to stop the onslaught of hatred in Europe in the 1930s and 40s, and I get depressed when I see so many of my fellow citizens embracing a gospel of hatred and racism now.

At the same time, I’ve never been more proud of the United States than this week, as I’ve watched the Democratic Party unite against hate. This is truly a golden moment for the Democrats, in terms of the party’s diversity and leadership, in terms of their capacity to build coalitions among people of many different backgrounds and competing points of view. Whether their message of hope resonates with the majority of the American people in November remains to be seen.

For me, the message of racism and bigotry espoused by the GOP’s presidential nominee is the only issue that really matters this election season. Everything else is background noise. Will we choose the abyss of hatred and division, or will we choose the power of unity and diversity? Will we tumble backwards toward the nightmare of 1930s Germany, or will we march forward into the greater promise of the 21st century?

I wish I knew the answer now. And it troubles me deeply that in this day and age, I am still having to ask the question.

Note: I’m posting this in clear and conscientious violation of the oft-repeated advice that authors should never discuss politics on a blog. I know the risk this entails, but sometimes remaining silent is the wrong choice. Comments for my journal are moderated, and messages of hate will be excluded from the discussion. Thank you for your respect and understanding.

4 thoughts on “War and Peace

  1. This resonates on many levels. My own family runs the gamut of opinion and allegiance. I’ve begun looking elsewhere for the person/party that speaks for me. The fear mongering that now dominates the political landscape seems to me to be closely tied to the 24/7 media spin that parses every word, gesture or facial expression within a centric prism. I’m done with fear.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hope you find your political home, Mark! I’ve long considered myself an independent, but as I indicated in the post, I am quite happy with my current home in the Democratic Party. GOP is out of the question for the foreseeable future, while the Libertarians and the Green Party simply don’t appeal to me for different reasons. I would like to see more political parties represented in government, but I also believe the electoral system would need a major overhaul to make that viable.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

      Like

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