On the Friday after the presidential election I was up at 2 a.m. and found myself watching the Bill Mahar Show that was broadcast the Sunday before the election.
With all the wisdom of hindsight, I watched a former Republican Congressman and a conservative television host argue the case for Mitt Romney.
It had sounded hollow before the election, but afterwards, when the Republicans lost the presidential race, it just sounded desperate.
It sounded even more desperate the following Sunday when I participated in a radio talk show along with two Republican New Jersey Senators.
It was like the election never took place. To them the loss was more about political maneuvering, off-key messaging and an aggressive Democratic opponent, not that they had proposed the wrong policies and through harsh characterizations declared nearly half the population victims, losers and moochers.
So the conversation was filled with the debate about makers versus takers, doomsday scenarios if taxes are raised, drill baby drill, and how the unemployed are lazy, just waiting around for their handout, a notion from one of the senators that I sharply disabused, assuring him that his assessment of the more than 9 percent of New Jersey’s residents who are unemployed was deeply offensive.
So we are in that moment after something important happens, when the foes gather themselves to assess, lick their wounds, or bask in the success they achieved.
Because this was an election where more was at stake than economic policy.
This was an election when Americans said you can’t take that away from me.
You can’t take my vote with your money or your anti-voting laws.
You can’t take away my right to choose my own health care plan, my right to choose if I want to use contraception, and kindly keep your trans-vaginal ultrasound probes to yourself.
This was an election when Americans said: Enough.
So we need a new language.
One that recognizes that the best American moments are those when the possibilities are enlarged, when we push back against the forces that seek to limit all dreams to the size of someone else’s visions, when troubles are problems to be solved, not end-of-the-world scenarios; when the plans include us all, not just the rich, the holy, the self-appointed, the self-important.
Think of it. What are the best moments? Freedom to form our own nation. The end of slavery. The end of economic monopolies. When women got the right to vote. Each of these moments opened up wide new possibilities. They also knocked from their pedestals a few of those in power, those who would say “No” so that more of us could say, “Yes.”
We need a language that takes the moment and blasts it to the edges, that rises above the pettiness of the every day to give a glimmer of what can be, that moves us one step closer to the promise of the nation’s founding documents, one more step to that place when we can agree that forward is better than backward, that talking and working are better than silence, when we can stand in the rubble of the fallen walls and say now is not the time to rebuild them.
Language that says progress takes work, and that work is progress; language that says it is time to settle the differences and sand off the rough edges; time to let the displaced and the hurting know that someone cares.
Language that says after spending $2 billion on an election it is not a lack of funds that stops us from progress, but a lack of common spirit.
Language that recognizes the good in what we do, and the good in those who do it; language that says maybe we all need to become Volunteers for America.
Langauge that says all can be forgiven, that all you and I need to do is talk and listen.
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