Humans are resilient creatures. We have to be. Can you imagine what life would be like if the emotions of all of life’s joys and all of life’s sorrows never decayed at all? Most of us would end up either too happy or too sad to accomplish anything.
But a handful of events never fully relinquish their emotional hold on us. They are the big moments that we hang our memories on forever. The birth of a child. Finding love, or losing it. The team you rooted for since you were a kid finally–finally–wins the World Series.
One of those for me was the death of a boy named Gary, who was my best friend when I was 12. He came by to see if I wanted to go swimming at a local pond, but I wasn’t there. By the time I got home, he had drowned. A group of us scoured the neighborhood and the shore, our hopes of finding him falling as relentlessly as the sun in the late summer sky. Divers found his body the next day, but I couldn’t quite accept that it was real. For months and months I had the same dream, where Gary stopped by to tell me that he had really just run away, and that I shouldn’t worry about him. But then I’d wake up.
Right now this election feels like that. I simply couldn’t imagine that the American people would give Obama another term in office. As election night went on, that same empty pit formed in my gut as it did when that search for my missing friend went on without success. This is no dream. This is really happening!
In the years between that day when I was 12 and last Tuesday night I’ve been through a few things that were far, far worse, so I’m not saying that I’m prostrate with misery. I’m mostly able to stay analytical about what happened and why. But every now and then I’ll get this feeling that a lot of other people have, that something that a lot of us thought was so important that it would always be a part of our lives was now lost. It seems that it was lost a while ago, but we didn’t really know for sure. And of course, being human, we remained optimistic that everything would be put right. Instead, we found out that America’s founding principle of individual liberty coupled with self-reliance–the best friend of people around the world who aspire to be free, and to strive–had gone missing while we were doing something else.
I happened upon a music video that expresses what I’m feeling uncannily well. The visuals offer a tribute to the dreamers who both imagined and built this country, but the music is reflective and the skies are ominous.
As I write this, the hour is very late. This mood will subside, and most of the time I’ll go on as if the good guys had won. But I don’t think things are going to be as good as they could’ve been. We’ll muddle through, living like Europeans, but without the cathedrals or the history. And within a generation nobody will be able to imagine anything being any different from the way it will be by then. Life will go on, and the country will endure. It won’t be the country we have known, but I suppose that’s always been true, too.