Like many I’m heartbroken by the direction our nation appears to be taking in the recent presidential election. In my distress I’ve turned to faith and poetry for solace. These have been touchstones for me all my life. And, as always, they’ve helped put things in perspective.
I’ve also been reading blogs and op-ed pieces that offer various viewpoints – from calls to protect the socially vulnerable, to reminders this nation is filled with good people who genuinely want what’s best for themselves and their neighbors.
Feelings are raw and fraught with surprise – and fatigue – after the absurdly long and intense election season. (It’s impossible not to notice the parallels to a carefully scripted reality TV show.) And it’s still too early to predict how this will all shake out. So I hesitate to offer any wisdom on the situation, especially having been so very wrong in my assumptions about the election itself.
However, one thing is pretty clear: people want change. Americans are not happy with the status quo. Part of that may be baked into our DNA – we’re mostly a nation of immigrants and descendants of immigrants willing to risk hardship and even death for the possibilities of a better life. At heart, we’re gamblers.
But change, for all its appeal, is painful to live through. The next four years will test our national character. And while I’d like to believe we Americans will meet that challenge and come out stronger and more united, I don’t think that scenario’s inevitable. It will take work on both sides – and lots of it – to get there.
I’m a writer who steeps myself every day in American history. I go deep and I’ve found over the last three decades that the deeper I go the more complex and messy it gets. It’s often hard to ferret out useful “lessons” from history, no matter how often we’re cautioned to learn from it.
But when I come up for air and try to take the long view on what’s happening I think maybe what we’re going through is the shattering of colonialism. It has a long, global history and is an integral element in the founding and policies of the United States. It will take a long, long time for it to die. And there will no doubt be a lot of ugliness and suffering along the way. But a better, more just and equitable world could emerge.
And maybe I’m wrong. My track record hasn’t been very good this week when it comes to seeing the future.
But I do think it’s in our nature to hope. And I know — from experience as well as faith — that good can come out of evil, that new life can emerge from death, and that the end is not the end.
That’s what resurrection means.