I spent valuable time yesterday trying to help ally the fears of someone who truly believes that we are about to enter a socialist era with Barack Obama at the helm. It is very difficult to get someone to see the difference between a socialist society and a capitalist society when that person is hysterically shouting that Obama wants to rob from the rich and give to the poor. I tried to explain that the collective ownership advocated by socialism is a far cry from a taxation system under capitalism that ensures we have functioning highways and schools. But alas, I failed to convince him with sound reasoning. The next time, I'm going for the sledgehammer.
I received an email from a godly woman worried about my immortal soul because I supported a candidate who is firmly pro-choice. I gently reminded her that 8 years under Bush had not overturned Roe v. Wade. I pointed her to the text of the legal decision itself, and also sent her some information about how the particular politicians in her very red state had voted in various challenges to reproductive rights. Finally, I sent her information about what she could do, at the grassroots level, to challenge legal decisions with which she disagreed. She emailed me back to tell me I was going to hell. The next time, I'm going for the sledgehammer.
And to top it off, I had a wonderful conversation with a student this morning who was offended that I had expressed joy, jubilation even, at the election results. Now Melissa, I confess that when I went to class last week after the election, I may have shared how happy I was that hope had triumphed over fear. I may have even been jubilant in triumph, but I was also exhausted and barely comprehensible. And after many years of playing sports, I have learned to be gracious in victory as well as defeat. This student told me that I had not shown enough sensitivity to those who had supported McCain and that my joy was essentially disturbing some raw wounds. I apologized, even as I reminded him that there are very real and very present festering wounds in the country already, particularly for people at the margins. He didn't seem content with my words. The next time, I'm going for the sledgehammer.
So here we are, on the brink of a presidency that will require chisels and scalpels to achieve diplomacy, lasting peace, and economic stability. Unfortunately, most of us are only familiar with the sledgehammer approach: if we don't like a country, we bomb them. If we think someone is guilty of a crime, we throw them in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp without due process. If we don't like what a particular organization has to say, we suppress their right to free speech. When we don't like when women "step out of their place" we create restrictions on their freedoms. When we don't like that charitable organizations are daring to provide sex education and condoms to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic (instead of abstinence only messaging), we yank their funding. After 8 years of cowboy sledgehammer diplomacy, we don't have the tools or the language for subtlety and nuance, and yet those are the very skills that will be necessary for America to grow and change.
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