The day after: we are not divided

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This morning I got in my car and turned the stereo from NPR to a Gillian Welch cd, signaling that now normal life will, once again, resume.  I’m feeling a little hungover from a whole night’s worth of television news network watching after four years of cold turkey.  Like an alcoholic who has her first drink after years of sobriety, I find it hard to resist the temptation to browse the web to see what everyone is saying about last night and where we go from here.  But mostly I’m just glad it’s all over.

All the pundits last night kept talking about how we are now a nation divided, and a lot of the activity on Facebook this morning seemed, on the surface, to confirm that the loud tearing noise you were hearing was the sound of America being ripped apart.  There was a lot of de-friending going on.  A lot of angry statuses IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.

Maybe it’s where I live, but I don’t particularly feel like a nation divided.  I don’t agree with everyone in Madison, and I sometimes wish people would find better ways to disagree.  I know the election put a strain on some friendships in town.  Maybe it ended some, but none of mine personally.  I know that not everyone in town voted for the same people I voted for, and quite frankly, that would be kind of weird and disturbing, anyway.  Some of the people I consider friends probably voted for candidates whose views I disagree with about as strongly as you can possibly disagree with something.

But I know who they are and I can see what they do outside the voting booth.  They organize and support some of my favorite local events.  They take care of their neighbors.  They play music together.  They help give our communities things like the farmers’ market and a community garden.  They sit at the bar and drink beer with us.  They practice compassion and patience.  I can see through their actions that they love Madison and the people who live here.

I don’t know what it was like at your polling station yesterday, but in Madison, people smiled at each other.  They exchanged some gossip.  They got to see folks they might not have seen in a long time.  Sometimes they hugged.

Perhaps this is just one of the blessings of living so far away from the places that the rest of the world perceives as the center–the places where all the important things happen.  Perhaps it’s better out here in the flyover states.  Perhaps out here we can afford a kind of tolerance.  Or maybe I’m just incredibly naive.

But maybe it’s that we’re able to see the people around us as more than just a person pushing a button on one Tuesday in November.  Pushing that button is certainly important and crucial and a little bit miraculous.  But it’s not everything.  Life goes on and if we can’t live with each other on one day every four years, how can we live with each other every other day in between?

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