In the months leading up to the Nov. 6 election, and continuing in the days since President Barack Obama was re-elected after turning back a challenge from Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, we’ve been told that we’re a nation divided.
From the radio provocateurs on the right, we’ve heard day after day the hysteric incantation that half of us are “moochers” or “takers,” intent on using the government to pick the pockets of the “makers” and the “job creators” from whom we’ve somehow taken this country.
From the cadre of left-leaning pundits populating the cable TV universe and the blogosphere, we’ve been smugly and condescendingly assured, night after night, that the other half of us are Bible-toting troglodytes intent on peeking into the nation’s bedrooms when we’re not taking target practice in the backyard with our rifles and shotguns as we try to force the country back into an idealized past that never was the past.
And, OK, the numbers from election night provide some rationale for these competing visions of America. In terms of the popular vote, 62,611,250 of the people who cast ballots on Nov. 6 voted for Obama (50.6 percent), while 59,134,475 of the people who voted in the Nov. 6 election cast ballots for Romney (47.8 percent).
Even the Electoral College map (And let’s not even get started on the whole electoral vs. popular vote thing, OK?) shows a country divided along geographic lines, as the Northeast and the West Coast comprised the majority of the “blue” Democratic states, while the Southeast and a large part of the Midwest comprised most of the “red” Republican states.
But, of course, numbers and maps can’t begin to tell the story of a country of almost 315 million people. And that, rather than the incessant hectoring of a media commentariat whose livelihoods depend on keeping their constituencies by turns terrified or self-satisfied, is where our attention as citizens of this country should be focused — particularly today, and necessarily in the coming days — if the civic fracturing that the punditry almost gleefully envisions is to be, as it must be, kept at bay.
Rather than giving credence to the dystopian fears for this country expressed on either end of the farthest reaches of the political spectrum, Americans must renew their focus on, and their commitment to, the things that set this country apart.
As a first step, it might be useful to recognize that, despite what we’re told about the political fault lines among us, we remain demonstrably and deeply committed to each other.
For proof, look no further than the ongoing relief efforts in the Northeast in the wake of the destruction brought there recently by Hurricane Sandy. Almost as soon as the storm dissipated, the media were filled with stories about businesses donating generators and emergency supplies to victims of the storm, about people with relief agencies, and those acting on their own, doing all they could to help the people working to rebuild homes and lives ravaged by the storm. …
It’s certainly safe to say that none of those who are helping Hurricane Sandy’s victims … are the least bit interested in the political leanings of the people to whom they’re reaching out.
All that they know, and all that they care about, is that there are fellow Americans who need their help, and that they are going to provide it, because, well ... that’s just what Americans do.
So let the pundits, the prognosticators and the provocateurs paint their dark pictures of an America adrift, of a nation coming apart at the seams. Let them rail against the darkness they’ve created for themselves and for the hapless folks whom they’ve enticed into their dismal little echo chambers.
The rest of us, the ones not living in those lightless echo chambers, know different. Sure, we know that this country has its problems — a disappearing middle class, a public education system that fails too many kids, a crumbling infrastructure, and too many wasted tax dollars, to name just a few. But we also know that these problems won’t be solved by relentlessly ripping at the civic fabric of this nation. We know that these problems will be solved as Americans do what they do best — rolling up their sleeves and getting to work.
This holiday season, as we gather to celebrate our bounteous blessings, let’s take a moment to recommit ourselves to seeking the best for our neighbors, our communities and our country, and to doing it together, as Americans worthy of living in this great country.