SIGNS OF THE TIMES (Published – Providence Journal 10/22/16)
In my neighborhood the first political signs appeared in July, their two narrow metal tines poking small holes into the soft summer lawns. They are colorful placards, approximately 36 inches wide and 24 inches high, touting my neighbors’ preferred Presidential candidates. This is a tradition which has been around for decades.
This year feels different.
This year, I fear, those many small holes have combined to create a fissure now bursting to the surface in this nasty autumn season as we approach November 8th. There is a tension in the air, a disturbing wind of rancor swirling through our everyday interactions.
We have moved so dangerously far from the simple declarations of; “I Like Ike.” or “Not Just Peanuts.” from past campaigns.
Social media has, of course, exacerbated the heated debates. Marital spats over this election play out, with heightened accusations, for all to see on Facebook threads which end eerily in silence leaving followers to wonder what lasting damage may have occurred.
Neighbors, who know they are on opposite sides of this bitter contest, warily avoid each other in the check out lines at the supermarket. Golf foursomes have been split by animosity.
An Huffington Post poll in May showed more than one-third of Americans had
already had a serious argument with either a close friend, coworker or spouse
over the Presidential race.
A September Harris poll reported over half of respondents reported that they were noticeably stressed out by the campaign.
It feels like we are gearing up for a national fist fight.
By hatching such overwhelmingly unpopular final choices for voters this election cycle and fomenting such globally embarrassing campaigns the process itself has shown it must either be extensively repaired or replaced. We would have to be a truly masochistic nation to submit ourselves to such torture again in 2020.
A complete review and analysis of the process is called for from; the length of campaigns which has grown by more than 35% since the 1970’s, the debilitating influence of an out of control financial contribution system, the fuzzy selection of delegates, the use of the electoral vote count, the gerrymandering antics which so influence state and local elections, appropriate and fair consideration of independent or alternative parties and some form of accountability of media outlets would be just some good starting points.
On November 9th, one day after the election, the yard signs will be pulled from our neighbors lawns. Mother Nature will begin her slow, patient healing process and soon the holes will no longer be visible. But, the United States will be put to a severe test. Can we shake our animosities and work together to close the fissures in our national psyche?
Only time will tell.
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Jim Raftus lives in Cumberland.
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