Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The end of an era

Last night a friend asked me to place a bet on when the Presidential Election would be called. I don't particularly relish gambling (although I did win my money back at the boats this weekend) but I said what I thought.

I figured that everything would come together without much ado by 11 CST. A little last-minute statistical tip from a Gallup employee always helps!

It seems I made a reasonable guess.

I rather enjoy politics. I love the constant dialog, discussion and debate. I believe that a nation manifests its health in robust dispute. At the end of the day mutual respect prevails and we learn and grow.

I must admit, however, that these last few weeks have worn on me. It is time for 5 November. I am glad for tomorrow but nevertheless thankful for today.

Regardless of how I or anyone feels about the outcome this evening I believe that it points to at least one undeniable trend: our national identity is shifting.

I have traveled on something of a wild terrestrial and ideological journey over the last few months. Last Saturday morning I found myself planted at the kitchen table squarely across from my aunt.

Aunt D- came to town to review some paperwork for my grandmother's estate plan. She grimaced and griped, "Aren't you glad that you don't have to deal with this mess?" Lacking any context whatsoever I was perplexed. "What do you mean?" I queried. "You know, owning oil rights and real estate...all this paperwork, those taxes...I wouldn't wish it on anyone."

A real mess, indeed! I don't get too upset with Aunt D., however. Our minute conversation speaks volumes about her and all the people like her- and there are plenty. A born Texan, a bit ahead being a baby-boomer, and a life-long Midwesterner she has lived in a charmed world. Nothing has compelled her to engage the world all around her. She goes to the grocery store and then drives 20 miles to JC Penny's to pick up a pair of slacks. She watches the 'soaps' and Wheel of Fortune. She dusts all the furniture everyday and mows the lawn weekly. And, once a month, like clockwork, gets a pension check and a little oil royalty. That's the world. That was largely her parents' world. I understand.

But it's not mine.

America used to "Speak softly and carry a big stick." Then it yelled and smacked people with said weapon. Then, it was back to big sticks- giant nuclear ones and smooth, hard talk. Now everyone has big atomic sticks. What Dr. Strangelove predicted (with necessary sexy consequences) is disturbingly possible and hardly sexy in the least.

We have nukes, lots of other people with nukes, Russia, Iran, North Korea, a war, a faltering economy, dwindling oil, evaporating national resources and a world of countries who think as much of our policy as they do our current Commander in Chief. London gentlemen utter his name like a different kind of 4-letter word. I didn't believe it until I heard it myself.

I could roll my eyes. I could think of how we didn't used to need anyone and probably still don't. (We saved the French and Europe on D-day afterall!) I can rest rest on my laurels. I could just throw the newspaper in the trash and go to Penny's and pick up a pair of slacks... But the world has become to small and our capacity for evil has become too great.

I would hate to overstate the point, however. I'm not sure if it's ever possible to have a "global community." I believe 'community' has limits. It is concentrated. I merely believe we are more connected than ever. This is hardly a 'either...or' scenario. I see it as 'both...and.' Community can and indeed must remain intact in a global or post-national age. We need the sanity of balance. People seem to recognize this more and more.

The photo I added above has a grove of trees in the background. When my grandmother grew up in the years following World War I everyone came to that grove on hot summer days for picnics with watermelon in the shade. They were all Germans and mostly related. In the 20's exploration companies found oil all around. Many people got a little piece of the piece. They farmed, raised stock, and got a royalty check. It was a good life. For generations most of them lived in died within a few miles of where they started. And it worked.

I'm not jealous of that world. It worked and worked well for many. I'm grateful for mine and glad that we are beginning to see the difference.

No comments: