Here we are, two days before the mid-term elections, and pundits are heralding a blue wave, or maybe a red wave, depending on their proclivities.
Me? I’m hoping for an orange wave.
An orange wave, you ask? Yes, an orange wave—of pumpkins and falling leaves and hot cider and, most of all, thanksgiving. Because regardless of who wins or loses on Tuesday, we have an awful lot for which to be thankful.
This may come as a shock to folks in Washington and in the news media, but politics is not all there is to life. In fact, it’s not the most important thing. And to get so worked up about it that we resort to name-calling, screaming in the Senate chamber, and threats of violence or overt acts of terror is to debase ourselves—and our society.
We all need to take a deep breath and refocus.
It is, in fact, a month to remember what got us here in the first place. According to Gov. Winslow of the Plymouth Colony: “Winter was come, the seas dangerous, the season, cold, and the winds high” on Nov. 11, 1620, when the Mayflower landed at Plymouth.
The Pilgrims had endured much hardship on their voyage from Holland, and were about to struggle through a terrible first winter in their new home. They chose their difficult journey knowing full well many of them could die. Yet they decided that, even if they were but “stepping stones” for others who would follow, freedom would be worth it.
In the years that followed, our forebears made many mistakes. The European settlers claimed the land as if no one else lived here, setting off centuries of trauma for Native Americans. They formed their owned rigid societies, forcing some, like Quaker Roger Williams, to seek freedom elsewhere. And African slavery reached the New World even before the Pilgrims: The first slaves arrived in Jamestown in 1619.
But despite these terrible failings, our forebears managed to forge a new kind of nation, one that has been a beacon of hope and a reservoir of prosperity these last 242 years.
Of course, human nature being what it is, sparks flew in the process. Benjamin Franklin, in his final speech before the Constitutional Convention in 1787, said that “when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble, with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views.”
Those prejudices and passions and “selfish views” are in evidence today, but without the dream of a new nation to temper them. And I blame all sides: from President Trump and his insulting tweets to Democrats (Hilary Clinton, Maxine Waters, Cory Booker, Eric Holder) who have escalated the conflict.
Our leaders are supposed to encourage, as Lincoln said, “the angels of our better natures.” Instead, they stimulate the rabble within us all. “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” said Mother Teresa. Prepare for an influx of guide dogs.
As the Constitutional Convention ended, people asked Franklin what kind of nation had been created. Franklin famously replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
We take it for granted, but keeping our republic is not a given. We have to work at it. But what can you and I, ordinary citizens, do? How can we tone down the nasty rhetoric?
I thought about that for a while. Jordan Peterson (“12 Rules for Life”) says if the world is a mess, clean up your room. In other words, take responsibility for your own life. Do what you can.
We can’t change Washington, D.C., by ourselves, but we can vote. Tuesday’s the day for that. So go vote.
Then I ran across this quote from John Wesley, founder of Methodism. On Oct. 6, 1774, he wrote in his journal: “I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election and advised them, 1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy; 2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against; And 3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”
Do you realize how felicitous our national discourse would become if we each did that? How easy it would be to sit around a Thanksgiving table with relatives and friends of all political persuasions? How much our collective blood pressure would drop?
So I’m hoping for an orange wave on Tuesday, a wave of gratitude for our forebears, a wave of thanksgiving for the freedom and prosperity we enjoy, a wave of kindness toward those with whom we disagree.
In fact, I hope we “go low”—not in the way the politicians suggest, but by adopting an attitude of humility and grace toward one another.
Because none of us gets everything right. And we need each other.
Linda J. White, a former assistant editorial page editor, lives in Fauquier County. She can be reached through her website, lindajwhite.net.