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Electoral Aftermath: Jubilation, Anxiety and the American Future

November 7, 2020

After so much mourning, jubilation in the streets of America.

The celebration is well and truly earned, for these have been punishing years for believers in any of the old Superman virtues—truth, justice, the American way, back when it went without saying that the American way implied truth and justice. They have been punishing years for believers in democracy, in civility, in conversation and cooperation. They have been punishing years for people who believed that the Civil War had been fought and won by the right side, that the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were every bit as much a part of the constitution as the words penned in 1787, that the collapse of Reconstruction was a calamity or that the Civil Rights movement was a moral triumph, however incomplete. 

It has been a punishing season for people who believed that the scientific method has worth, particularly when we are dealing with matters of science, that the health of our brothers and sisters is not disposable, that we owe one another a duty of care, that political discourse is not a bloodsport. 

It could be argued that we have all been naive, and that the very traits we disdain in the passing era are now permanent fixtures in the American social genome, engineered into place by the wizards of the Internet, who told us we could have what we wanted, and we responded: “Conflict.” 

That’s where our work begins: Can we learn to want something else? Can we learn to treasure concord rather than discord, the non-zero-sum game in which we give a little, get a little and realize that the giving and getting aren’t mutually negating but mutually reinforcing? Can we embrace a public life not based on the negation of the other? Can we rise above the infantile language of winners and losers, acknowledge that we are on the same team, and play hard together?

These are our tasks, and this is our time.

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