According to astrophysicists around the globe, the sun will appear to rise on Nov. 9, 2016, because of the rotation of the earth. Even in the United States of America, where the latest in an unbroken series of The Most Important Presidential Election in History will have just concluded.
This is not to say this election is routine. Even the most jaded veteran of American politics can admit to its uniqueness. The many cultural theories advanced to explain the tone and actions of this competition for the presidency indicate the struggle by historians and political scientists to simply describe, let alone explain, the rancor and bitterness erupting on our civic stage.
Those intense feelings portend an uncertain healing process and return to routine political discussion. For a large part of our population, the aftermath might resemble mourning after a tragedy more than preparing for a new administration.
Mow The Yard. When I was a young boy, my best friend and neighbor lost his grandfather. My friend was very close to his grandfather, and when my family went over to visit, he was standing beside his grandmother trying unsuccessfully not to cry. I had never seen him so upset, and I too began to sniffle. After a few minutes, his grandmother looked up and said, “It would help if you boys could mow the yard.”
The idea of doing something other than being miserable was appealing, so we raced out and began to struggle with an old push mower as only 10-year-olds can. After several tries and juvenile mechanical tweaking, the mower coughed to life. We began taking turns mowing a considerable yard 20" at a time, with the inevitable contests and arguing that are so much a feature of boys still unclear on the concept of efficient cooperation. My friend was sad for weeks, but useful and productive work helped us get through a tough day.
In the past few decades, a different theory of managing grief after tragedy has emerged, one of exhaustive immediate counseling. As a result of far too many violent episodes such as Sandy Hook and Charleston, psychologists have much more data to compare ways to enable recovery. Unexpectedly, intensive on-the-scene counseling with victims is often not as effective as we hope. More to the point, only a tiny fraction of victims will develop serious psychological problems that warrant such intervention.
Regardless of the outcome, many of us will be distraught the morning after the election this year. More ominously, the recent breakdown of traditional political debate ensures even when it’s over, this election won’t be over. There is no expectation of diplomatic concession or even closure. Losing has been made synonymous with humiliation. Acknowledging even obvious defeat is disloyal. This election will be behind us only when we push it there.
Reset And Rebuild. Agriculture as a sector and rural America as a region have invested overwhelmingly in one side of the presidential debate. Should this faction not be successful, we will be surrounded by many deeply upset by the outcome. With the echoes of vitriolic discourse in the air, the ingredients will be in place to prolong already plentiful grief and anger. Should the reverse happen, add in the feeling of being outnumbered. The last thing we’ll need is to “talk it out” in the vain hope of reconciliation or respite.
I would suggest considering the advice of the heartbroken grandmother. Given the somewhat immature conduct of the past few months, mowing some proverbial lawns might be the most useful thing we do. If we are still doing fieldwork, I hope to park myself in a cab, surround myself with the sounds of my favorite playlist and try to have something productive to show at the end of the day. I find abiding satisfaction in turning large swaths of soil darker.
Nov. 10 is soon enough to begin what might be an arduous effort to rebuild community, mend relationships and adjust to a new reality of public life.