As I am writing this, the people of Alabama are out voting in one of the most divisive and controversial elections since, well, that horribly divisive one that was in November 2016. These two elections have been bookends to a year filled with tribalism and hatred.
I can’t remember a time teeming with so much anger — on both sides. You used to be able to have a friendly debate with your friends, family or neighbors about politics, and if you disagreed, you may say, “Joe and I disagree on this race, but he’s a good guy.” Now it’s “Joe and I disagree on this race and he is an awful human being who should die and I hope it’s in some really painful way.” If Joe is a liberal, he’s a snowflake and/or libtard. If Joe is a conservative, he’s a mouth-breather and/or republitard. Or any number of other derogatory terms. For a full list, just spend some time reading the comments on Facebook or Twitter.
Things are just crazy now. And depressing. And I really don’t see any end in sight. Sure, the end of the Senate election will help but it’s only a matter of time before something happens and everyone gets firmly back in their corners and takes to their keyboards to start attacking one another again. Death (of polite society) by a thousand keystrokes.
During this holiday season, I am trying to unplug from this nastiness and focus on what’s really important, while remembering there are so many things to be grateful for …
I am not sure how this election will turn out as I am writing this, but either way it has cast a bright light on this state. Some of the press has been positive, but a lot of it has been negative (shocking!). Outsiders are threatening to boycott us if the election doesn’t turn out the way they want, saying if it goes one way it will just prove we are exactly what everyone already thinks about us. Maybe that will be the case. I hope not, but whatever happens there is still no other place I’d rather live or raise my family.
When I visited a friend in New York last year, we went to the theater. When the native New Yorkers sitting next to us found out I was from Alabama, a gentleman, whose face I will never forget, made a grimace and some sort of guttural sound of disgust and said, “Alabama. Really? Well, welcome to our country.” I just politely smiled.
A few months later, I was out on Mobile Bay with my children and dolphins were jumping around the boat we were on. As the kiddos squealed with glee, that man’s face popped into my head for a second and I thought, “No, welcome to MY country, a-hole.”
This is an amazing place — our own little paradise, and it is filled with many wonderful, creative, kind, smart, fun, talented human beings who would do just about anything to help each other out and who are constantly doing things to make this state and our city better. Maybe the rest of world won’t think this or see this, but I know this. And despite its shortcomings and craziness, it’s still my sweet home. And I am proud to tell any “outsider” about the Alabama I know and love.
On the morning of the election, somehow both kids had ended up in bed with me. My poor husband had migrated to the couch, most likely due to kicks to the kidney from my daughter. I turned on the television early to flip through the cable channels. I wanted to see how they were all covering the race. At some point, my son got up to see where our elf “Kernel” had ended up. Thankfully, I had remembered to move him.
I was consumed with the television when he came back in to tell me Kernel was in our plant. Silly elf! As he went on and on about it, I shushed him so I could hear what pundits who are not from Alabama were saying about Alabama.
Then I realized what I had done.
This kid probably only has a couple of years left (at most) to believe in Santa and that Kernel is magically flying to the North Pole every night to report on his behavior, and I just told him to hush so I could hear these talking heads wax on endlessly about what the results of this race will mean.
So I turned off the TV and listened to him wax on endlessly about Kernel and Christmas and some guy who skateboards and has a YouTube channel and how he doesn’t feel like he is very good at board games that require luck, such as Bingo; he’s better at ones that require skill, and on and on. And it hit me that all of these things he was talking about that really don’t matter, do matter so much more than what happens in this race or in Montgomery or Washington. Sometimes, that’s easy to forget.
Just like it was back in November of 2016, as this issue hits the streets on Wednesday, close to half the state will be disappointed in the election results. But just like then, the world will keep on spinning either way. And yes, crazy and disappointing things will still happen in this state and country and people will still call each other names and be horrible to each other. But if you take a step back and look around, there is still a lot of beauty and goodness left in this world too. We may just have to look a little bit harder right now.