The day after: Time to come togetherWednesday, November 07, 2012
Failing With Gusto
It is the day after the big election. In theory, the lawn signs are expected to come down, the rhetoric is supposed to cool, and this is when America takes a deep breath and tries to play nice with each other once again.
But on the flip side, I am actually the Ghost of Election Day Past. This essay was written the day before voting got under way.
Media outlets and pundits have delighted in comparing the results of this election to "The Day After." You remember that movie, right? It was the really upsetting 1980s made-for-TV special about nuclear holocaust and the end of civilization as we know it.
But if you're reading this, apparently we made it through. Nobody has radiation sickness. There was no mushroom cloud. We all survived.
Elections definitely matter.
But so does civility.
I'm not talking schmaltzy, let's-all-sing-Kumbaya kind of civility. I'm talking general civility. One must consider that about half the nation is really pissed off right about now. And the other half must resist the urge to gloat. It's time to remember what we share as a people and as a community.
When I first moved to the southside of Chicago, I was not an overtly political person. I had voted here and there, but remained somewhat disinterested and skeptical. The old adage of Chicago politics, "vote early and often," left me fearing the game was fixed, and that my vote didn't really matter.
As my husband headed to the ballot box one fine November day, he suggested that he'd watch the kids so I could walk to the polls upon his return.
"I wasn't planning on voting," I advised. "Plus, I don't even know who is running."
At that moment, my husband looked like he had been hit with a nuclear warhead. He started mumbling some curse words. He shook his head. He even took the Lord's name in vain.
And once he calmed down, he mustered up: "We live in the 19th Ward of Chicago, Marianne. WE VOTE."
Over the years, I have learned to take great pride in the fact that the 19th Ward has some of the highest voter turnout in the entire city, if not the nation. In 2011, almost 75 percent of residents cast their ballots. And based on my conversations with poll-watchers, there was hardly a dead person to be found.
Well maybe two.
The 19th Ward is one of those communities where the subject of politics is discussed loudly, angrily, and with great passion. You hear the battles at the school playground. Neighbors dispute facts and figures at local pubs. Even as mass lets out, fervid parishioners make their case to pew-mates after a quick genuflection and dip in the Holy Water.
But the 19th Ward also pulls together like nothing I've ever seen. Sickness, tragedy, and loss are rarely suffered alone. It is the very reason my husband insisted we live in this wonderful, though imperfect, neighborhood. You are never abandoned should calamity strike. Nobody cares about your voting record when the chips are down. Your tears are wiped, your soul is nourished, and you are set back on your feet with great love and care.
That is the spirit of post-election life I am wishing for now. We all want the best for our community and our families, and putting aside the divisive nature of politics and elections is one step in that direction. I want the best for our president, but I can't wait to bid farewell to the Ghost of Election Day Present.
Here's hoping the door doesn't hit him on the way out.