The last four years have really tested our sense of time, as it has simultaneously felt like an eternity and an instant.
While the never-ending news cycles full of drama and outrage have served to make the last 1,375 days seem like well over a million, it also feels like it was just yesterday when I stood at Ladd-Peebles Stadium to cover then-candidate Donald Trump addressing the thousands who had shown up to see him on a typical hot, humid August night in Mobile.
I was there to cover it, but I really just wanted to see the “show.” And, I was one of the many who flatly (and obviously very wrongly) dismissed his chances of even being the Republican nominee, and certainly not president.
“His long, disjointed, braggadocios ‘speech,’ if you can call it that, at Ladd was more akin to listening to your senile ol’ grandpa ramble on from his Naugahyde recliner on a Sunday afternoon than someone actually laying out a thoughtful plan to ‘make America great again’…. And this is why Trump will ultimately fade away,” I wrote in my column at the time.
Faded right away, didn’t he?
I was definitely wrong, but I still stand by the assessment that he sounded like a senile ol’ grandpa, but that could probably describe both parties’ nominees this time around.
And with the ink I just spilled on the preceding sentence I have now made everyone mad. But that is not my intention. I am not here to discuss the candidates for president. You have already made up your mind. You love your guy or hate the other one so much nothing will change your vote at this point.
The only thing we know for certain right now is that no matter who wins next week, roughly half of the country is going to be left feeling like “the chosen one” is going to send this country to hell in a handbasket.
There will be tears. There will be declarations of utter disgust and empty promises to move to another country because the pillars of our democracy and our nation will certainly crumble under this guy.
But will it really?
The losing side always says that about the president of the other party. Clinton was a philandering disgrace who destroyed the moral fiber of America. And was impeached. W was a moronic idiot controlled by a demonic VP who was sending our soldiers to war to get killed so his corporate buddies could profit. Obama was an aloof know-it-all whose “socialist” health care plan’s death panels would kill the disabled and elderly because they would deem them not worthy of care. Trump is a madman who is controlled by Putin who puts babies in cages, grossly mismanaged a global pandemic and who has systematically destroyed all American institutions and norms. And was also impeached.
And Americans will agree or disagree with these statements and argue the merits based on their political party of choice.
While there may be some truth buried in each of these presidential critiques, they are largely hyperbolic and designed to make us not just disagree with the other side but hate them.
And that’s nothing new. It just keeps getting worse.
But the world somehow keeps spinning despite all of these heinous monsters in office. Even the ones who manage to get eight whole years!
People still fall in love, get married, have babies, get divorced, bury spouses and parents and cry tears of joy or sorrow with the ones they love — no matter who is in the White House. And all of those connections and experiences are so much more important and meaningful and what really matters.
This is not to say anyone should be indifferent about this election or any election. Every citizen should be engaged and vote for the person and/or principles they believe in. There are many, many changes still needed in order for this country to become a more perfect union. And voting is always a part of it. But it’s not the only part. And I would argue more change can be affected by being more plugged into your state and local races than obsessing over who is behind the desk in the Oval Office.
And drilling further down, even more change can be made on a personal level — by running for office, volunteering where you can REALLY see and feel change or enacting policy changes or initiatives at your own business. Or even just breaking out of your own bubble and trying to understand where people are coming from or how they got there. And teaching your children to do the same.
The last two presidents — Obama and Trump — have caused visceral reactions from “the other side,” but this should actually be incontrovertible evidence to both the Reds and Blues that even if your guy doesn’t win this time, it will be OK.
This has been a scary and challenging year for all of us. But I fear no matter who wins next week, we have all been programmed by social media and cable news to stay amped up at all times and combative. They certainly only stand to benefit if we stay cracked out on it.
I don’t know if there is any way to put that toothpaste back in the tube.
And maybe some people don’t want to — they look at this as war, so to speak, and if you haven’t picked a side, then you are part of the problem, not the solution.
I am just not there yet. I can’t be. I think we focus far too much on the people on the fringes of the party we hate when really most people in the middle agree on more than they disagree. I still believe most people in this country are fundamentally good human beings no matter who they cast a vote for next week or in any election. And they would run to help their neighbor or a complete stranger in need regardless of their politics. And over these next four years, I am going to do my best to focus on that rather than the nonstop demagoguery.
And I am sure, much like the last four, they will drag on forever and be gone in the blink of an eye at the same time.
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