Oh, if only we all could believe that! However, in spite of my fortune cookie form last Saturday, I fear that the current year will bring a very mixed bag of blessings, sorrows, and anxieties. The question is how to deal with it, since we have no choice but to hurtle forward. I am appalled at what is going to happen tomorrow, but it is a fact that none of us can escape. We can march, we can write letters, we can post indignant messages on social media, we can wake up in the middle of the night, we can gnash our teeth, but none of this is going to change the fact that an unfit, erratic, irresponsible and unprepared person whose values are the opposite of mine is about to take office. There will be much to do in the coming months, but it is going to be a question of persuading the people in his own party to stand up for decency, and that he is a liability to them as well as the populace. We can march all we want, but if we are merely talking to ourselves it will really be like blowing into the wind.
Americans are going to have to listen to one another and learn to reclaim their common values: remember what Abraham Lincoln said? "A house divided against itself cannot stand." Lincoln was quoting a statement that would have been recognized by most of his listeners then, though not today, as coming from scripture. Matthew, Mark and Luke all have Jesus saying this, which most authorities consider to be fairly definitive proof that he did. The phrase that precedes it is "a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand." Whether we are talking on a large scale or a smaller one, the point is the same.
So who are you going to listen to? Is it possible for you to initiate a non-confrontational dialogue with someone who voted differently? Because, frankly, that is what it's going to take, all across the board. Both Democrats and Republicans are going to be forced to re-think, re-learn, re-consider; otherwise, the house truly will not stand.
I grew up in a rural part of the country that has always been Republican, and this election was no exception. I understand why. And it makes me ache to think how devastated these voters will be, yet again, when they lose even more as a result of their choice, and discover that this person knew exactly what to say to get elected, but will not deliver on his promises. I know many of them, and though I disagree deeply, I also know they are good people with genuine concerns that have not been met at all by any administration, any politician. This is not an apology, it is just a fact. I've also lived long enough to see people change in their attitudes about women, blacks, LGBT persons, people of other faiths and ethnicity. It takes time and it takes leadership, it takes openness and it takes listening and honesty on both sides, and an awareness that what we stand to lose through our divisions is much worse. Change for the better is actually possible, and it is important to hold onto that as a foundational truth and personal tenet. As the outgoing president is fond of saying - quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. - "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."
In the meantime, I am trying to look closely at the beauty that surrounds us, and to draw strength from that. It's there in so many ways: so much is given to us absolutely for free, beginning with each breath. So I take heart from that awareness, and from the fact that other people have seen this, been sustained by it, and worked with it throughout history even during the darkest times. We can too.
A plate of persimmons, watercolor, January 2017