Tomorrow is Election Day, which I am facing with relief and trepidation. Thankfully the interminable campaign will finally end; but I fear little will have been decided, regardless of the outcome.
Recently I have boycotted the cable news outlets with their 24/7 analyses of the “Race for the White House,” regularly featuring interactive maps divided into red states and blue states as well as shouting matches between opposing “surrogates.”
And I long ago gave up openly voicing my opinions about the candidates. For the first time in my experience, the tenor of a campaign has at the very least discouraged an honest exchange of political views. Just when we desperately needed serious dialog about important issues, we and the candidates stopped listening and started yelling.
Shortly after I finished my weekly article of yesteryear reminiscences, my heart and my brain dragged me back to the computer. Thus, in today’s column I am stepping to the edge of the ledge to share the concerns of one old lady living quietly here in the heartland.
I am concerned that formerly acceptable political opposition has turned impossibly divisive. Too many of us are so resolute about our positions that we refuse to consider any other point of view – with compromise apparently a uselessly-outdated concept. Ideological differences have widened the gap between us into an almost-unmaneuverable chasm.
In the political version of chicken-and-egg, we blame many in Washington for accomplishing nothing – and yet, they are doing exactly what we have told them to do: make no concessions, pass the laws we demand, or risk being voted out. With lawmakers and many of us refusing to cede the slightest ground on essential issues, it should be no surprise that Washington grinds on in endless gridlock.
I am concerned that this nineteen-month campaign has been short on inspiration and long on scandal and gossip. More than once, I have checked to make certain I was actually watching the evening news and not Access Hollywood.
The primary debates, crowded with ten people shouting for attention, morphed into three practically unwatchable Clinton-Trump matchups rivaling the public spectacles centuries ago in the Coliseum of Rome.
Hungry for substantive details on scores of issues, I have been disgusted by the attention paid instead to negative campaigning and mudslinging, unfortunate staples of many modern campaigns. I find myself now, at the low end of the motivation scale, voting for the candidate I hope will do the least damage during the next four years.
I am concerned by our increasing vulnerability in cyber matters. It is embarrassing enough that Trump and Clinton – both of whom are Baby Boomers, I point out with a sigh – have used social media and technology unwisely and recklessly. But I am downright frightened by foreign interlopers continually hacking into our electoral process.
I am seriously concerned by the undermining – simultaneously brazen and surreptitious – of our governmental institutions. Although I have never belonged to a political party, I believe their existence has always provided a necessary modicum of structure and organization for the political process. Perhaps, however, it is time to update the shape and function of traditional party politics.
I cannot, however, accept the assault on our election process. Polls and precincts across the country have been served for years by community-minded volunteers working to facilitate our most basic privilege/responsibility. It is unforgivable and irresponsible to even insinuate that these people would perpetrate any kind of fraud.
I hope I am overly concerned about circumstances that may eventually work themselves out. As a nation, we have overcome a great deal just in the last hundred years. My parents and lots of others survived the Great Depression, scarred but steady. We have gone to war almost too many times to count, losing more than a half million of us since the beginning of the 20th century. Demonstrations and riots have frequently threatened the peace, and we witnessed the assassination, the resignation, and the impeachment of three presidents in the space of 35 years. We pulled together in the aftermath of 9/11, although that national spirit seems to have evaporated.
I believe we must now work harder at being American citizens. We cannot take for granted the freedoms paid for by those preceding us; we must continue to earn our freedoms and constantly safeguard them.
We must be respectful of each other. We all belong to America and, as such, are entitled to our own, individual opinions. We must at least accept that other points-of-view exist: beliefs that are not wrong, simply different.
We must emerge from our distant corners to explore every possible piece of common ground upon which to build bridges to the future. We must expect that from our lawmakers, our judges, our leaders – and ourselves.
During this time of global instability, we need to be at our greatest level of strength and leadership. Instead, we risk weakening our country beyond recognition and repair. We can no longer afford to stoop to shallow thinking and alienation – we must rise to the occasion by accurately informing ourselves and working together.
Trump wants to make American great again, and Clinton thinks we are stronger together. I agree with both. But it is not really up to them or to Washington. It is up to us, and we had better get busy. If not, we will get exactly what we deserve.
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.