It's the morning after, and

by francine Hardaway on November 3, 2004

It’s the morning after, and George Bush has a lead of more than three million votes. The popular vote, of course, counts for nothing in our system, which should make all those people who stood in the rain for hours to vote feel pretty useless. But the electoral vote is very close, and of course we are still waiting for Iowa, where the election officials claimed fatigue and announced they would not report, and Ohio –“too close to call.” So the morning headlines sound like the titles of novels: “Cliffhanger,” says USA Today, and “Deja Vote” says the Daily News.

I’m no masochist, so I voted by mail two weeks ago, and last night went to my favorite bar to watch the results come in. When I left the bar, Kerry seemed the winner.

When I turned off John Stewart and went to bed, it seemed closer. And when I made my ritual trip to the loo in the middle of the night, Bush was ahead.

At that point, I connected with my breath and detached from the outcome of this election. And that’s probably because I am a student of eastern philosophy.
The Buddhists say that if you are attached to the outcome of your desires, all life is suffering. To achieve happiness, one should practice non-attachment. I’m not a fan of unnecessary suffering, so this morning I am looking at things philosophically.

Although I voted for him, Kerry should concede. It is unseemly to use the electoral college to manipulate a popular vote lead of millions. Perhaps if the popular vote is close, he ought to hang in (as Gore did not), but if the people want George Bush, Kerry ought to honor that (as George Bush did not).

What’s the matter with us? Don’t we know, as a country, that it’s all about “getting to yes,” just as it is in a marriage, a business, or even a war? We need to heal. We need to come to consensus. Fine, George Bush is the president. Now his job is to see that he can learn from the people who did not vote for him. For Bush, the work is to understand why he doesn’t have a clear mandate this time either.

For Democrats, the work is to recognize that the country clearly has changed from the one they grew up in; it’s time to recognize this and act accordingly. People no longer believe the government can solve problems or is capable of providing a social safety net. People no longer believe in certain freedoms, such as freedom to choose. But they believe more strongly than ever in other freedoms: the freedom to own weapons. Is one freedom “better” than another? Can’t we still bed the land of the free and the home of the brave in the 21st century.

It’s time to bring out the Bhagavad Gita, that ancient story of the advice Krishna gave to Arjuna: yes, you have to go to war against your relatives because you have to do the right thing. But you have to detach from the outcome.

If we continue flaunting our divisiveness to the world, we will only lose further stature. I can imagine how annoyed Europe is that Kerry didn’t drive Bush out of office, but I can’t imagine how Osama bin Ladin feels now that his enemy has remained in power. I would not be surprised if the terror attacks that didn’t stop our elections begin again now that Bush has been re-elected. But I don’t know this will happen, any more than anyone can know.

What I do know: as long was we are so divided, we are at risk everywhere in the world.

So we need to do two things: Kerry needs to concede, and Bush needs to build some bridges to people who feel strongly about things like stem cell research, womens’ right to choose, and other key issues he has opposed in the past. He has the opportunity to operate from a position of inclusiveness and healing. Let�s hope he rises to that opportunity, for the entire country�s sake.

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