Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Musings on the day after Election Day 2016

On the day after …

It's November 9, 2016.

Is it always this grim at the Maplewood Station, I wonder? People are silent this morning. Their heads tilted toward their screens, where most, I imagine, are reading analysis of what went wrong yesterday.  The overcast sky begins to drizzle.

I open my red umbrella hoping no one misinterprets the color for a political point of view. But how can they? The “I’m with her” sticker remains proudly on my right lapel.

There’s still water in the South Orange swimming pools. They never empty them in off-season as Maplewood does. Yellow leaves leave the trees, red ones cling, greens peep through. The hillsides of the Reservation haven’t changed. Cars jam the Garden State Parkway. I remembered my computer charger. The conductor clicks through tickets.

Life goes on.

There’s the blessing of democracy: the day after an election, civil society proceeds in peace. Whether your candidate won or not. “This is our democracy," an Iranian parliamentarian told me in an interview in Tehran in 1999. "You go into office alive and you leave office alive.” For Americans that may be a low bar; for Iran, 20 years after revolution, it was high. Egypt can’t claim that, although Morsi is not dead, yet. Saddam Hussein is dead. Muammar Qadaffi. I imagine the bull’s eye on Bashar al Assad’s forehead. God Save King Abdullah of Jordan. And God’s will be done in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Peace on the day after Election Day is one of the reasons my dad loved this country. I sit on the NJ Transit train heading into NYC (where yesterday there was apparently a serious uptick in security, police presence, and precaution), wanting to appreciate the miracle of democracy as he did; also the resounding wisdom of Pirkei Avot: Yours is not to complete the task, but you must strive toward its success. This is "jihad." I go to the banner at which "the wise and honest may repair," held aloft by George Washington himself, who added, "The rest is up to God."

We exchange power with a handshake in this great nation. That's a miracle.

God help the poor and the meek Americans, for they may lose their health care.
God help those in prison, for their numbers may rise if they are black, brown, Mexican or Muslim.
God help the theaters, museums and orchestras, for there may go the National Endowment for the Arts.
God save our native populations from pipelines that may flatten their homelands.
God protect our forests, parks and fresh waterways from the devastation of commerce.
Save us from the new leaders of the (not-so-free) world, because we are no longer #1.

But he will have only four years to try and re-make America’s greatness. I predict he will fail.

Yesterday’s choice by a slim majority of American citizens speeds a trajectory already in motion. Our time of triumph has turned. The cycle of civilizational strength orbits on. To China. To India. To Brazil. To Southern Europe, again. To Baghdad, again, when it’s recovered hundreds  of years hence, and American citizens blithely manufacture widgets for holograms, looking forward to synthesized alcohol at the end of a work day to numb the pain of unenlightened life. What a wretched scenario.

Can I imagine another? Another into which my great-grandchildren’s grandchildren will emerge and flourish?

I can!

But not today.

Yesterday Katie Turner and I cast our votes; I for a fellow alumna. Hillary Clinton's acknowlegement speech is gracious and filled with hope. Maybe it will cheer you, too: