Some topics for discussion in cooler times

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While pundits analyzed and argued ad nauseum the irrationality of the Red State electorate, the genius of Karl Rove, the fallacy of exit polls etc., the mood on both coasts and around the Great Lakes was, well, blue.

Anger and frustration that energized the last weeks of campaigning ebbed, leaving some to ponder the most dispiriting and enigmatic outcome of any election in modern times.

While the winner preened and boasted of how he would spend his political capital, New Yorkers were saying mandate, schmandate. Here at home, in our multiparty family, there was no gloating by those Republicans living in and planning to move to Montana, as there was none by Democrats, Independents, Libertarians and Greens on Tuesday when exit polls were showing a likely win for the “liberal” senator from Massachusetts.

However, as divisive as this campaign was, it seems to have brought to the surface some issues we should be talking about now that the heat of the fray has cooled. Probably not so much at the national level, where voters looked not for discourse but for affirmation of their core beliefs. Maybe more at the local level.

After the competitiveness of the campaign has died down, these discussions should go on in coffee shops and kitchens and daycare centers, even on park benches. Those who watch only Fox News, listen only to far-right talk radio and look to their evangelical pastors for political as well as spiritual guidance probably never watched Aaron Brown’s quiet and thoughtful “News Night” on CNN. And they surely don’t think Jon Stewart or Bill Maher are funny. That may be okay for the sheltered rural lives they lead, but it hardly gives them the breadth of knowledge needed to understand their fellow Americans living in cities. Urban dwellers, who are exposed to wider views in their daily lives, even in the red states, voted overwhelmingly Democratic.

One of the things that ought to be discussed is the difference between morals and ethics. That way, Christians wouldn’t feel their “moral values” were under assault by those with a more tolerant view toward personal differences. We all might accept that while moral issues may guide personal behavior, they ought not to drive public policy. Ethical treatment of all citizens, including those of other faiths, might be a better standard for lawmakers, particularly in a country with such a diverse cultural landscape.

In our quest for moral purity, there must be room for tolerance. Didn’t Jesus Christ preach tolerance and forgiveness? Didn’t He say we should eschew wealth and take care of the poor? Why is it so hard for some people to see the dichotomy of “protecting life of the most vulnerable” and demanding the death of those who break the law? And could we expand this discussion to protecting the quality of life for the aged and terminally ill?

We might pursue this debate with those defenders of law based on ideology. Perhaps a conversation with John Ashcroft would clear up a few things like, what happened to “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord”? If “Thou Shalt Not Kill” applies to a frozen clump of cells no larger than a grain of sand, and equally to a brain dead patient, why would it not also apply to someone convicted, rightly or wrongly, of murder or kidnapping? Or treason, maybe.

If a man in his quest for enlightenment explores the teachings of Buddha or Muhammad, or adopts a Muslim name such as Muhammad Ali or Karim Abdul Jabar, must they be suspected as terrorist sympathizers, their names placed on the No Fly List?

And is it fear or the quest for power that imposes one’s values on another or denies to some the liberty guaranteed by our Constitution? And should we be making changes to that document which has guided this country for more than two centuries, not to extend liberty to some, but to deny it to others?

These are the discussions we ought to be having now. Now that the outcome of the election has been decided and before the rhetoric heats up for the next. It really won’t matter which political party wins if in the end we all lose. Maybe if we devote some time and energy to these issues now, we won’t have to choose next time between morality and ethics, religious and secular governance, restrictions on freedom for some or liberty and justice for all.

Come on. Talk it up. And let’s not forget to listen.