While in bed with a super cold this past week, I read quite a bit about the election aftermath and current scandals on the Internet, which were both illuminating and discouraging. A few things jump to the forefront and deserve comment here, and I would encourage others to provide their perspectives.
First and foremost, how is it that we have become a nation of whiners and finger-pointers who refuse to take responsibility for our own foibles and failures? Not only was I surprised by the conservative perspective’s refusal to see how it no longer represents the dominant view of our country (albeit by an historically small margin), but I saw blame being cast on single women, immigrants, and people who just want free “stuff.” The stretching of the truth (aka just plain lies) has not ended with the election, but continues in a flurry of accusations by white, Christian Americans who will not come down off their high horse long enough to see that, as Bill Maher said, “White people vote for white people like it’s going out of style. And like most things white people do, it’s going out of style.”
It is true that this is not our Founding Fathers’ America, and I praise our nation for progressing beyond a slave-owning, woman-repressing land where workers died too young from unsafe conditions and disease. Blame the labor unions all you want, but they dug us out of a dark age of industrialism with regards to workers’ rights. Blame African-Americans if you will, but our ancestors brought them here against their will. Blame Latinos if you must, but half our land was Spanish (then Mexican) territory before we became a country. Blame women if you have nothing else to fall back on, but if it weren’t for women, you would not be alive today to wag your finger at us. The hypocrisy is thick and foul-smelling, and does nothing to overcome the challenges we are facing today.
It is also true that we are not the country we were when I was a child, some 40 plus years ago. And I could kiss the ground I walk on in gratitude. My mother was fired for being pregnant (as it was a bad model for the children she was teaching) and earned significantly less than her male counterparts doing less than her job, as many women still do (70 female cents to the male dollar, in case you are unaware of the current statistic). My African-American friends would not be able to dine with me in public were it not for the civil rights struggles that have changed the face of America since my birth. My Latino friends would not be educated; my dark-complected boyfriend would be scowled at and ridiculed as he walked by my side; some of my female friends would have died from unsterile abortions; my gay friends would be masking their true selves to squeeze into the American mold yesteryear saw as fulfilling its dream.
This week’s nation is not America as we love it: it is full of people spouting divisive, sometimes evil rhetoric because they are angry. In response to the election, people have filed petitions for secession from California to Alabama — sour grapes because over half our country voted for a Democrat (or could it be because he is black)? I’ve lived through many years of government with which I disagreed strongly, and I gave my tax dollars to see them spent on programs I don’t support. So I used my voice and my vote to turn the tides. This is what we do in a democracy. We don’t take our marbles and leave in petulance because we didn’t win this time. I say, get with the program or get out, but — as my wise youngest brother says — you can’t take our land with you. You are worried about national security? Look at history for some advice: as a nation divided, we open ourselves up to be conquered, but united we stand stronger, safer, and more able to withstand the ill winds of hatred swirling around us.
I recently saw a story from a young mother who brought her infant to hear the President speak in the week before the election. She told a sweet and personal tale about how — despite having brought a bottle of formula to feed her child during the event — her baby got hungry again, so she discreetly covered him with a blanket and let him breastfeed. Obama noticed her, and smiled quickly at her as she nursed during his speech. When he did the traditional post-speech handshaking, he motioned for her to hand him the baby for a typical political photo op. She was overjoyed, and the photo represented a touching moment in support of mothers everywhere who nourish their children as nature (or God) intended. Yet in the comment stream were numerous hateful posts: about the mother daring to nurse her child in public, about Obama’s political grab for the spotlight, and most irrelevantly, about Obama himself: using the N-word, using the F-word, using epithets that I refuse to repeat here. How is is possible that anyone could defame a photo of an innocent baby with hate-speech about the now re-elected President? What purpose does that serve, besides further antagonizing other Americans and pitting us against each other for the next four years and beyond?
I extend the olive branch to those who disagree with me. I care deeply about real dialogue and respectful communication. And it seems that our President does, too. Obama has honored Romney in the post-election press, expressing a desire to work with him to build consensus around policies. And he has drawn some lines in the sand, as is his right as President. Romney, on the other hand, has stood proudly atop his ivory tower in disbelief of his lack of support and blamed Obama for the political trick of giving favors. Who is more likely to re-unite our divided public? You tell me.