Monday, June 27, 2016

The Best We Can Do?

So after all the reasoned debate and the thoughtful media analysis of the Republican and Democratic campaigns, we have winnowed away all the lesser contenders so that only the worthiest remain, the two candidates undisputedly most qualified to lead our nation for the next four or eight years.

And yet I can’t help noticing that both of them have negative favorability ratings, at last look 54% for Hillary and a whopping 60% for Trump. This is unfavorable we’re talking about, one can only imagine what the actual percent of favorable impressions are, since there is undoubtedly a degree of undecided or neutral percentage points in there. Somehow the media never seems to tell us exactly what percent of us actually like either of them. It doesn’t really matter, I suppose, because we’re not going to be voting for the one we like anyhow but rather we’ll be voting against the one we most dislike. But judging from the people I talk to, my estimate on likeability for either of them would be about 1%.

How did this happen?! How, in a nation of over 300 million people have we not been able to find two candidates we actually like, let alone even one? In any other sort of competition it would boil down to the best of the best. If it were a beauty contest, we’d almost all agree that the winner would at least be pretty. Were it an athletic competition, few would deny there was at least one of the best represented in the final showdown, the other perhaps being a merely “good” team that lucked its way onto center stage. But even good is better than what we have. Similarly, in any list of best movies the vast majority can agree that the top two are at least films worthy of viewing. You might prefer Casablanca, but you still have to give Citizen Cane its due. But when it comes to choosing a president we are incapable of finding two candidates who get a passing grade—a D-, for God’s sake—in the eyes of the electorate.

Once we get to this point, isn’t it logical to stop the debate about which of the two really bad candidates we want and instead discuss what the hell brought us to this point in the first place? What is wrong with our electoral process that we end up in this situation election after election? I know the pressure is on to vote against the really bad candidate (in your eyes) rather than the merely bad (in your eyes) candidate, but that is not the answer to the real problem, which is bad candidates. We’ve been down this road too many times and it has led to Clinton vs. Trump. Do you really want to play the same game one more time, kick the can down the road and wait and see what 2020 brings us? Go ahead, imagine the worst, the reality will be worse yet. Eighteen months ago I thought Clinton vs. Bush was the worst possible scenario.

Where else in our lives are we willing to accept such a choice? If you needed surgery would you go with the doctor less disliked or would you perhaps delay the procedure until a better option presented itself? If your toilet was broken would you choose the plumber in the Yellow Pages that displeased a mere 54% of his customers or would you not rather attempt to do the job yourself? Would you not demand better, would you not seek some other option than the two given you?

At what point do we refuse to play this game any longer? At what point do we stop moving our token along the path we are told we must travel and instead tip the whole damn board over?

Seriously, what’s wrong with us? Let’s put aside for a moment what is wrong with our candidates, because that question won’t provide us with the answers we’re looking for. Let us rather ask what’s wrong with us as a nation, as a society, when we cannot get two decent candidates. Don’t you think the first quality we would demand of a leader is that he or she should be moral and honest? Isn’t that what we used to revere in leaders such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln? If morality is not a high priority for us in those we vote for, then we ourselves are not moral and we are lost as a nation. And if morality is not a high priority in who we vote for, there is no reason in bothering to listen to the self-righteous outrage that both sides hurl against each other. If you plan to vote for either of these candidates, can it with your moralizing.

Here’s the thing: we deserve better! But like a woman who’s been beaten down by one no-good man after another, we have forgotten our self-respect. And if we lose our self-respect, it further encourages the abuser to tell us how lucky we are to have him/her. The abuser tears you down, makes you feel like you can’t get and don’t deserve anything better. And you WON’T get anything better until you find it within you to demand respect, demand dignity. More than anything else, you’ve got to stop making excuses for the abuser. You have to see things as they are and stop accepting the narrative of someone who’s taking advantage of you. Only you can make that decision. They will never decide to set you free, they will never treat you the way you deserve to be treated on their own. Sometimes you have to walk away, be willing to face all of the terrible threats that they’ve been using to make you live a life of fear.

Abused people begin to hate themselves as their fear of the abuser overtakes them. Then they begin to hate and fear others. That’s what elections are about now: hate and fear. We no longer vote for what we want but against what we hate and fear.

There’s a word to describe such behavior: dysfunctional. The left and the right are like spouses who can’t stand each other and yet can’t justify their own behavior without having the other to blame. It’s a trap we are stuck in, but just like an alcoholic it’s up to us to change the destructive pattern we’ve created.

It’s up to you! The future of your country and most likely the world is up to you! Stop blaming others and accept responsibility. Stop believing that we just have to hate the right people and trust the right people and it will all magically fix itself. Reality is presenting us with some serious questions and you know deep in your hearts that the answer is neither Trump nor Clinton. This is what adults do, they realize they can’t hand it off to someone else and expect them to solve their problems. You’re the parent now, you’re the grownup. If you don’t do it nobody else will.

This is your country. This is your life. You can’t resign yourself to the two choices provided by others when you know, You KNOW, deep in your hearts, that neither presidential candidate is truly motivated by what is best for their country but instead by selfish concerns. You can’t pretend it’s okay, can’t pretend there are simplistic solutions to the crises our nation now faces.

We cannot play this game any longer. Even if you are too weak to avoid voting for one of these two candidates, at least spare us all your hate-filled diatribes. When you vote for what you feel is the lesser of two evils, don’t try to make others believe they are evil for not voting for your candidate. And for the love of God, don’t try dragging others into the cesspool with you. Because in the end it’s not about Donald and Hillary, it’s about you and me. We have to learn to get beyond the partisanship, and that means getting beyond the idea that we have to uncritically defend what is indefensible.

We’re better than this. America is better than this. Let us once more show the world the potential of the U.S.A. Let us act in a way that would make people like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King proud, let us remember our heritage and strive to pass on to our descendents the best of what we have been able to create. Let’s show them that we’re not just another country that rose to great heights only to fall into complacency, decadency, greed, and violence.

And while we’re at it, let’s show each other we’re better than the politicians who represent us. Trump and Clinton are not candidates but bombs with lit fuses in a crowded room we try to hurl at the other side in hopes of injuring the other more than we ourselves are injured. Damaging the other side is not the same thing as winning. The bottom line is, fighting with the other side will never bring about the changes we need to make, it will only lead us lower in our death spiral. We need to find ways to compromise, and more than that we will need to work to understand and, yes, even love those who disagree with us.

It is not too late, but we cannot walk the same road that has brought us to this point. We feel we have no choices but we better start looking harder. Our continued conviction in failed patterns of behavior has brought us to this point and clinging to them further is like a drowning man embracing a boulder. You have a choice of boulders right now, and whichever one may seem bigger in your eyes at this moment, the option of letting go is the better choice. United we will stand, divided we will drown.

Hatred and fear. That’s what is guiding us as Americans now. We’re better than that. At least I hope we are.