Thank goodness, it's over

Election leaves nation with choices: Remain polarized or heal wounds

Posted: Sunday, November 07, 2004

It's finally over. The annoying polling calls during dinner, the numerous pieces of political spam on the Internet and the junk mail threatening to blow the hinges off your mailbox it's all over.

That's the good news.

Now, the bad news.

On Nov. 3, half of the country woke up cheering, while the other half awoke sneering. We are truly a people, a nation, a culture divided.

How did we get this way? I keep asking myself.

Some say the fracture started after half the nation was left jaded and disenfranchised after the 2000 presidential debacle.

However, as much as I remember feeling that way, I still think this most recent presidential campaign bred a hatred all its own which caused the nation to become polarized.

After all, I saw things that I had never seen before in a campaign:

Vice President Dick Cheney, in between speeches about morals and values, told a fellow lawmaker to "!@*% off" on the Senate floor.

In New York, people with Bush- Cheney stickers got their cars keyed for showing their support.

In Nevada, employees of a private registration company partially funded by the Republican National Committee called Voters Outreach of America, were caught ripping up voter registration forms of Democrats.

The left-wing political site sponsored a contest which featured an ad comparing President Bush to Adolf Hitler.

Vice President Dick Cheney warned a crowd in Iowa that if Sen. John Kerry was elected "the danger is that we'll get hit again" by terrorists.

The list goes on and on, and what has it done for America? It has left us with an us-versus-them mentality.

Political parties and their various cause groups regarded themselves as combatants in a war which left both sides fearing that if the other side won it would be the end of the world.

I was shocked by my own lack of civility in discussing political issues with co-workers at the water cooler and felt that my differing and uncompromising ideology cost me more than one friend outside of work.

As much as I hope to never see such action from myself or our political leaders again, I fear that in regard to the latter, Pandora's box has been opened.

Future elections, by nature, will have to be more venomous and have even more boisterous promises, false accusations, tawdry political tricks and all around muckraking and mudslinging than the ones that came before it.

So, what are we, the people, left to do? Is there any hope?

I believe there is. Although there was much negativity associated with the election, it's important to focus on the positive aspects of what came out of it.

As unfortunate as all the election rhetoric was, we should be clear that it resulted from people being genuinely concerned about government, the nation and the world at large.

With a shaky economy, a controversial war, the separation of church and state becoming translucently thin and the possibility of the Declaration of Independence being amended to stipulate "... all heterosexual men are created equal," people were paying close attention to the issues.

Also, and I think even more importantly, as a result of people paying attention, this election got a record number of people to get out and vote.

This is no small achievement. Many of these newly registered were people who hadn't voted before because they felt that the candidates were so similar that no matter who won it was like stepping into the same pile of poop, just with a different foot.

But, in an election with two candidates with such dramatically different ideologies running close to 50-50 in support right up until the very end, people once again began to believe in the democratic system. They began to believe their one vote could count.

Now, for better or for worse, it's over.

And, as much as it pains me to say so, Bush won fair and square, winning by 4 million popular votes, as opposed to losing by 500,000 like he did in 2000.

Only time will tell what he'll do with the next four years. Will his responsibilities include cleaning up all the messes from his first term, or will he just create all new messes?

We'll have to wait and see, but in the here and now, we, the people, have a responsibility, too. We need to show that no matter whose face is pictured around the world as America's leader, it is we, the people, who make the country.

It is we, the people, who have the drive to truly be a democracy and heal the wounds of our polarized nation.

Not since that familiar catch phrase of the American Revolution was coined, have the words "united we stand, divided we fall" been more appropriate.

Joseph Robertia is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.

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