I asked myself, “Do the candidate and his Vice Presidential nominee understand well enough the pickles we’re in to describe them coherently?”
“Do the candidate and his Vice Presidential nominee point to our differences and exacerbate our lock step outrage? Or, do they identify our points of agreement and stimulate rousing, inventive problem solving?”
For the last several decades, most of our national discussions have been adversarial debates, framed as “either-or” choices. We’ve been herded by those narrow confines into separate fortresses: Tree Huggers vs. Greedy Developers; Pro-Abortion/Pro-Choice vs. Pro-Life/Anti-Choice ; and High-Spending, Bleeding Heart Liberals vs. Miserly, Greedy Conservatives.
Signs of civility are creeping back into the discussions. New starting points are being proposed and more points of view are being invited to the table. Will the candidates foster or stymie these efforts?
What radical old concepts can we hear if we listen closely?
That we are inextricably connected — for better or for worse.
That whether we’re rural or urban, we need the roots and audacity that make us whole.
That the cockroaches won’t mourn our passing when we fail to teach our children science, philosophy, literature, the arts, math and ethics.
That if we enunciate sane priorities (ecological protections, fair wage jobs, vibrant schools, robust health care, nutritious food production and equal access to information) and develop fair playing fields, our bankrupt discussions of low or high taxes and big or small government will be rendered irrelevant. Instead, we will talk about investments in our future and the benefits reaped.
That we are not heads-in-the-clouds intellectuals or pragmatic rubes. We are dreamers and implementers.
That we are not insular Believers or snobbish Skeptics. In times of threat, we all reach for familiar comforts, tending to turn our backs to the storm and cast worried glances at strangers.
Faced with famine, dwindling resources and invaders who carried contagious diseases, the inhabitants of “Easter Island” (Rapa Nui) turned on one another and plundered the lands of those who were killed. Their cultural totems were destroyed by civil wars and the people were reduced and enslaved.
So I ask myself, have our fears so crippled us that we can’t learn the lessons of history?
Will our next President encourage our unity or divide us so that only the wealthy prosper?
And then, I imagine Bruce Springstein as our Poet Laureate.