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King: Day after vote is time to unite as Americans

POSTED: November 18, 2008 5:00 a.m.

What are you going to do tonight: Stay up and watch the returns, or go to bed and pray for the best? I‘m going to bed; too old to stay up much past 10 o’clock no matter what’s going on.

Unfortunately, there will be a lot of unhappy people Wednesday morning no matter who wins, and that concerns me. I’ve overheard both John McCain and Barack Obama supporters say that if the other guy wins they are going to leave the country. Now that’s about as drastic as it can get.

Just where do they think they will go? Or to be more blunt, who wants them? Americans are not particularly popular these days, and that should concern everybody.

I’m amazed when people say they don’t care what the rest of the world thinks of us. If they didn’t believe we live in a globally interconnected and interdependent world before, the present worldwide economic collapse should convince them.

I leave the question of who or what is to blame to future historians. Better to ask what can you and I can do for our country right now. Whatever tomorrow brings, it will be up to the American public to put the country back together again. Neither Obama nor McCain can do it without public support. There is no top-down solution.

Wednesday morning, assuming we don’t have a repeat of the 2000 election, we need to put the campaign behind us and think about what it means to be an American. Start with Franklin Roosevelt’s four freedoms: America means freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

Of these four, however, freedom from fear and freedom of expression are probably the most important, because without them, the other two are hollow.

We need a government we can trust. This is asking a lot because all governments lie when they believe it is in their interest. They only thing that can stop them is their own people. It up to you and me to insist on transparency, to reject partisanship, and not to allow our leaders to manipulate us with fear or tempt us into wishful thinking.

It would probably be better not to use the word "lie" at all. Let’s find something less emotionally loaded and talk about "faulty intelligence" or "faulty information."

Faulty intelligence took us to war in Iraq, and faulty information is behind our present economic woes. The first was driven by fear, the second by the belief that tomorrow would take care of itself.

Fear is insidious. The world always has been a dangerous place, but when people succumb to fear their judgment is impaired.

They willingly accept flawed information. They substitute party loyalty for rational thinking and provocative sound bites for provable facts.

During the closing months of the presidential campaign both parties used fear to manipulate perspective voters. Let’s put that behind us right now. Both Obama and McCain are honorable men, good Christians and loyal Americans. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Both men have promised change, a real break from the past, but that is impossible. Change is inevitable, but we can’t blot out what has already happened. We are in a recession no matter how the spin doctors twist the numbers, and we have hard times ahead, no matter who is elected.

However, in difficult times people tend to pull together. They seek simpler pleasures and come to depend on community to a greater degree.

There is even a plus side to the contentious campaign we have all experienced. This year Americans have voted in greater numbers than ever before. Early voting has proved a huge success.

Looking back, one has to ask why we ever limited voting to a single day.

Far too many people simply couldn’t make it to the polls on a given Tuesday. Early voting is a step forward.

It’s time now to show the world Americans are what we’ve always believed ourselves to be: resilient, generous to all, a nation that can be trusted to do the right thing in difficult as well as good times, a diverse people who really are one nation under God.

Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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