November 23, 2016

Pre-Thanksgiving reflections

I left the office early today, as is usual on the day before Thanksgiving, and stopped at my mom's house on the way home to help her put the extra leaves in the dining table for the big feast tomorrow. She's getting on in years, and wrangling a heavy cherrywood table is getting to be a bit much for her, as you might expect.

She still lives in the same house where I grew up, and so stopping at Mom's house is always a small trip down memory lane. There's a stop sign on the corner that didn't used to be there, but apart from that, it's about the same now as it was when we moved into the place when I was six years old in 1972. The old Swanson place is next door, the house across the street that was owned for years by a Malibu lifeguard with an orange Porsche 911 is under new ownership, the big two-story on the cross street lost its oak tree but still has the elaborate brick stairway leading from the street to the front door, and next door to it, Mr. Edwards is still at war every afternoon with the soccer moms who park their minivans in the cul-de-sac where he lives (there's a back entrance to the elementary school there).

Maybe it's because it's autumn--I always get a bit reflective at this time of year--but I look at the leaves on the tree in front of what I still think of as the Masons' house starting to change color, and I think not of what's the same, but of what has changed. Particularly in the last couple of weeks, with the election being what it was, it's been a slog. I look around the old neighborhood, and I think of neighbors long gone, and my dad and his brothers and sisters, and my grandparents, and I imagine what they--Republicans all--would think about what is going on now. I suspect they'd be appalled, particularly at the rise of the far right. My dad's brother, whom I once heard use the word "spearchucker" in a descriptive way not applying to Olympic javelin throwers, may have held racist views, but even he would be shocked at what's going on. I'm fairly certain he didn't spend World War II in naval aviation so that people could quote Nazi propaganda in the original German and give the Hitler salute at gatherings in Washington, D.C.

And then I look at the recently announced Cabinet appointments, and the incipient kleptocracy, and the spectacle of a President-elect involving his family members with the transition and blurring the lines between the business of America and the business of his company, and I despair. I wonder what I'm doing even paying attention. The world has changed, and I have clearly not changed with it.

There's the question of voting irregularities (i.e., fraud) in certain key states (look up Outagamie County, Wisconsin if you want the details), and yet it appears the Clinton campaign, despite amassing a two-million-vote lead in the popular vote, has no intention of requesting an audit or recount. Meanwhile, our current President is focusing on a seamless transition and seemingly keeping quiet as he makes way for someone who is going to attempt to undo every bit not only of his legacy, but the achievements of the past fifty years. If the Democrats are our only hope against the devolution of our republic into a kakistocracy, God help us.

This is the position I'm starting to arrive at: it's over. There's nothing that can really be done at this point to prevent any of it; the time for prevention has passed. The best thing that can probably be done is to keep our heads down, work hard, and ignore national politics. The only help any of us can be at this point is to our friends and neighbors locally--to help them paint out the graffiti when the local mosque gets vandalized, to support local leaders who refuse to cooperate with the coming police state, and not to get distracted from the fact that the other side is trying to establish the New Normal, which is anything but.

I have no grand conclusions. The important things in the coming years will be simple ones: love your family, care for your neighbors, do your job, and if you're lucky enough to have a bit of land, work in your garden. Read books. Visit friends. Travel, if you're lucky enough to have the money to do so. Volunteer locally. If you have kids, teach them history. It will at least give them the perspective to understand what's going on around them. Have coffee, and eat pastries, and laugh when you can. Be brave if you can, and if you can't, support the ones who can. The coming years will test all of us in ways we don't yet know or understand.

May we all pass those tests.