For the last two weeks, people have been asking me to write a column about healing after such a divisive election. No small request since I needed to do my own healing. I wondered how I could be objective enough to write a column about healing when all I could do is pretend to be normal while ruminating about catastrophic possibilities for our country.
And then I received an e-mail from Susan of Chester County. She said she was working the polls Tuesday evening on behalf of one party – she didn’t say which one – and dutifully set out some of her party’s brochures. She also stacked up 50 copies of my Nov. 1 column on healing the political divide. So she put two signs on her table: one advocating for her candidate, and the other titled “bipartisan inspiration.” Few people picked up her party’s brochures. But the columns went immediately.
We all hurt and we all want to heal.
This election, more than any in recent memory, was about fear. Both candidates played to the fear of an already frightened country. And this country was frightened well before 9/11. Five years ago, I wrote a column suggesting that our entire country suffered from an anxiety disorder. More people were moving to gated communities and taking antidepressants.
Since then, that anxiety has escalated to fear. Now it feels as though our lives and our nation are at stake. As I reported in my last column, people increasingly seem to be living with neighbors who think as they do. Segregation is a response to fear and insecurity.
Many who voted for Kerry did so out of fear. Fear about President Bush and what many consider his dangerous policies. And now what do we do with that fear? Simply live with it for another four years, turning our fear into anger, righteousness or resignation?
Many people who voted for Bush also did so out of fear; fear of terrorism, fear of changing presidents in the middle of a war, fear of a leader who is a “liberal.”
Bush supporters may feel relief and vindication in the short run, but the fear will return. Terrorism is still here. Iraq remains a nightmare without an end. Iran and North Korea are dangerous and getting more so.
Much of the world is also frightened and vulnerable. Unfortunately, it is in our primordial nature to manage vulnerability with aggression. And in the short run, it seems to work even though beneath the hatred, we are still afraid.
For now, we really don’t know what to do. President Bush says we will find the terrorists and destroy them. That might make us feel better, but deep down we all know that’s not the way to end terrorism – only the way to end some terrorists. How do we stop this scourge of terrorism that seems to threaten the whole world? We need someone with the courage, insight and historical perspective to hear the true voice of all the different factions. King Solomon prayed to be able to hear with his heart. We need a world leader who can do the same. One who can understand suffering, honor humanity, and exhibit the strength to be humble.
So while I am waiting, how will I cope? I have always felt that faith and fear are opposites. So I will try my own form of fundamentalism.
As I try to understand the wisdom of Jesus, the Buddha, Mohammed and the Hebrew Bible, the essence of what they all seem to be saying is to simply feed the hungry. So, I will take their advice and call MANNA or the food bank in my area and offer to help. Who knows? Maybe someone I feed will one day have enough strength and wisdom to emerge as the world visionary we desperately need.