Wednesday, November 9, 2016
The Morning After
When I was born (almost) seventy-two years ago, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president. I don't remember him at all, of course, because I was not even a year old when he died in April 1945. Next was Truman, whom I barely remember. He left office in January 1953. I had just recently turned eight. My mind was more on bicycles and baseball and cowboy movies.
Eisenhower is the first president I remember well. When he left office in the winter of 1961, I was a high-school junior, and he had been president most of my politically conscious life. My dad loved him (as I wrote the other day), and I remember Ike as a calm, steady presence, a man gently chided for his less than thrilling manner of speaking--and for all the time he spent on the golf course. (There's a funny parody of what his version of the Gettysburg Address would have sounded like: link to it.)
Then, here came a flood of presidents in what seems now to be an ever-swifter torrent of time; Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama ... and now Trump.
As I also wrote the other day, the first presidential candidate I voted for (1968), Hubert Humphrey, lost to Richard Nixon; I would vote again and again for those who couldn't win (i.e., Democrats): McGovern, Carter (who lost his bid for 2nd term), Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, and, yesterday, Hillary Clinton.
So I'm used to being in the minority. It's not the greatest feeling, of course, to wake up in the morning to discover you're there once again. (I went to bed early last night--8:30--not unusual for me in the era of my energy-sapping cancer meds; I woke up at 1:30 a.m., checked my phone, saw the result, tried to sleep some more--had difficulty doing so.)
But I'm used to it, losing. I lost classroom elections in elementary school, elections to offices in high school. The sports teams I played on in high school rarely won. In college I lost a run for student-body president--against my roommate! (That was awkward, but I did win a seat on the student senate.)
But--whether the Dems win or lose the White House (or majorities in the houses of Congress)--I have not surrendered the things I believe in and have believed in for decades: civil rights, women's rights, minority rights, gay marriage, voting rights, labor unions, health care for all, social security, respect for the environment (and preparation for the ominous threats of climate change), public education (which needs a vast investment from us to improve it, all over the country), affordable college and post-high-school programs of all sorts, and the belief that underlies all of this: Our levels of government--local, state, national--should help people who need it--"promote the general welfare," as our Constitution says. I believe in creating conditions that give everyone--everyone--hope, that allow everyone to feel safe. And valued. And welcome.
So ... my candidate lost last night. I'm sorry about that. But I'm not sorry for what I believe in--for what I've worked for my entire professional career. I will continue to write about and promote these beliefs until I simply no longer can.
Social change and progress are slow, but I continue to believe in their possibility, maybe in their probability (naive? no, hopeful)--and certainly in their desirability.
And that belief is what got me out of bed this morning. What walked with me to the coffee shop. What helped me turn the pages of the book I'm reading. What fills my heart when I hold my wife, our son and daughter-in-law, our impossibly wonderful grandsons.