Although I strongly suspect that everyone that sees this either has or intends to vote, it recently struck me that two questions posed 45 years apart sum up what is facing us in the next week. In its song, Sweet Home Alabama, Lynyrd Skynrd asked in 1973:
“Now, Watergate does not bother me.
Does your conscience bother you? Tell the truth …”
Although Melania Trump has perhaps never heard of Lynyrd Skynyrd, she seemingly posed much the same question to us last June when she wore a jacket bearing words that she later confirmed were intended “… for the people and for the left-wing media who are criticizing me …”:
“I really don’t care. Do U?”
I don’t believe that criticism of a First Lady is generally warranted unless she chooses to actively participate in a substantive policy realm (which Mrs. Trump hasn’t). Skynyrd’s reference was obviously to another time when an otherwise able President was ultimately driven from office because he let his partisan fervor override his respect for our laws. Even so, I would offer that Mrs. Trump and Skynyrd were in their respective ways asking us: Do you care enough to address what you see happening in your country?
We have to care. My stomach is genuinely upset by the level of intense conflicting emotions currently loosed in our country. I want to “turn off” – to focus on sports, hiking, the Weather Channel, whatever. I’m not allowing myself to. I’ve been extraordinarily blessed to be an American, and it’s time to stand up for what our country is – which has nothing to do with skin color, religion, sexuality, or like differentiators. It’s time to begin returning to responsibility, civility, and good faith compromise between informed citizens of different perspectives seeking truth; to decency. While “political correctness” can admittedly be carried too far, it’s time for some in our citizenry to remember (and for some, if necessary, to learn) that ugly emotions – such as anger, resentment, greed, intense dislike (or worse) of those not like us — should be suppressed, indeed, need to be suppressed for us to thrive as a nation … not given free rein.
The outcome of no one election – certainly not of the impending one — will quell the caldron of passions – I would suggest the demons – in our national psyche unleashed during President Trump’s campaign and presidency. Still, we have to start somewhere. I acknowledge that if the Democrats gain control of one or both Houses of Congress next Tuesday, the most immediate outcome of a divided government will be yet more rancorous exchanges while giving the President the foil that, as a great showman, he knows he needs in order to continue to stoke his followers. I absolutely agree that Democrats, every bit as subject to their special interests as Republicans are to theirs, have a significant share of the responsibility for exacerbating the tensions we must now overcome. That said, since Mr. Trump is demonstrably incapable of doing anything other than inciting division amongst us – indeed, he and his enablers have a unique talent for and revel in making Americans of different persuasions ever more intensely dislike each other – I would submit that any vote that serves to thwart them will, like the very first movement of a long and painful physical therapy regime, begin our nation’s process of returning to a stable footing.
Hopefully, we will answer: Yes — Our conscience does bother us. And yes — We do really care.