I keep wondering how our lives can be so normal, even ordinary when we are surrounded by a fire storm of rhetoric that is telling us we are deeply divided and unhappy with each other. We shop together at Costco, go to the same post office and medical center. We smile and wish each other a good day.
It is almost as if we have gone silent in fear of discovering that our neighbors really don’t like us at all. I have been struck with the absence of signs supporting either presidential candidate not only here but on a recent trip across the state. It feels very odd.
We continue to do all the things that keep life going and interesting yet life lately is like living inside a surround screen that puts us at the center of a reality show from which we have no escape. Each way we turn we are confronted by another affront and too often an assault on our reason for being and the value of our sacrifices for a better world for us, our children and our community.
Was none of it true? Have we been fools to believe in the possibility of a democracy that promises opportunity for all? Were our parents, spiritual counselors and teachers wrong when they taught us about respect, integrity and love? Do good citizens avoid paying taxes preferring instead to use OPM — that would be “Other People’s Money” — to pay for our defense, the education of children, communicable disease control, interstate highways and disasters?
Within the space of 15 months, we have found ourselves in an alternative reality in which a large percentage of us applauds the cruel humiliation of others and cheers the hypocrisy of a man who prides his business success in using and losing other people’s money, including taxpayers.
We are on the cusp of electing a man who celebrates and thrives in the power of his words to attract followers, to convince followers and to have his insulting behavior explained, even forgiven by those same followers.
When democracy fails
My democracy accepts, understands or at least tries to, that our country is diverse. Homogeneity is not, nor has it ever been, a hallmark of our nation. We are made up of many tribes. The moment we start singling or separating out tribes is the moment our democracy fails.
Only we can catch and reverse course when it has failed to live up to its principles. Notable failures in our history were slavery of Africans, internment of Japanese and denying women the right to vote.
Now, I know there are many who seek to equate democracy with our founders’ version in that only certain people voted — property owners who were white men. I like to think we’ve evolved our democracy to invest all citizens with civil rights and responsibilities.
Of course, I also know that the system is rigged to the advantage of wealthy power brokers. It shouldn’t surprise any of us that there is anger over lost jobs, lost retirement, lost houses and lost opportunity. It shouldn’t surprise any of us that we the people want change.
The answer can’t be the further erosion of democracy. No democracy survives a solution that involves discrediting an entire group of people and barring them from full participation in civil liberties.
No democracy survives that is embroiled in name-calling and thrashing over who’s to blame as it slides further into either authoritarian rule or anarchy.
The solution must be to enhance democracy, stop messing with it and make representative government work. We can demand that our elected political leaders start working together to solve problems and grow opportunity. Differing philosophies about how to get there is the challenge of democracy; it is inherently messy and slow.
We must come to terms with our tribalism and our diversity that spawn disagreement; it’s quite natural given what we are. We have to learn to work and live with it. At minimum, we need to decide if we want to live in a culture of relentless humiliation of others. If not, let’s not allow it to happen.
Virtual screaming ‘stop’
Columnists, far more learned than I, are practically screaming to the American public — don’t elect Donald Trump. Many have examined policies and determined them either incomprehensible, self-serving or both.
Newspapers which are historically Republican or conservative are warning the public against electing Trump. They cite not only his disregard for certain groups of people but his apparent lack of competence, and from some points of view, interest in the complexities of being the President of the United States.
Some have even gone as far to endorse Hillary Clinton as an experienced, hard-working and very qualified candidate. No doubt that was difficult and a true demonstration of great concern for our nation should Trump be elected.
But they do point out that she at least has comprehensible policies.
Try as they might, Trump supporters cannot sway him from his core beliefs that “you hit me and I’ll hit back,” and never having to say you’re sorry. I can’t help but wonder how that works. Just what scale of affront would he use to go to war.
We may find out. I hope not. I want this reality show to end and the screen that keeps me locked into the dark side of human nature dismantled.
I vote for investing in our democracy and using this whole miserable awakening to knock us out of any illusion that we have a full participating democracy.
Rather that we try to make it work for all and understand that all decisions affect us and we must consider the lives that are upended by poor decisions.
Anything offered by Trump is too frightening in its unpredictability and instinctive nature. The consequences are simply too exhausting to contemplate.
Bertha D. Cooper is retired from a 40-plus year career as a health care administrator focusing on the delivery system as a whole. She still does occasional consulting. She is a featured columnist at the Sequim Gazette. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.