A question for this Veterans Day weekend: Are we acting like a nation worth dying for?

I want to apologize to my readers for my delayed reaction to the election results. In the middle of all the hullaballoo, a friend of the family passed away. I hope no one minds that I took a little time to honor the life of someone who meant a lot to my oldest son.

Comforting a child, albeit an adult one, through a death so close to Veterans Day — which is an emotional day for me — all while watching the culmination of this election cycle put me in a pensive place.

It’s the kind of pensive place that makes me not entirely sure what to say in response to the outcome. I have at least four or five drafts of posts about the presidential results in my head and a couple more typed out, but like the bears’ chairs for Goldilocks, none of them feel quite right.

I have a version where I declare Kellyanne Conway the MVP of the election cycle and glass ceiling shatterer in her own right. Like Trump or hate Trump, Conway joined the team just when I was beginning to doubt my prediction that he would beat Clinton, and my doubts ceased. Again, like Trump or hate Trump, but please give this savvy woman credit for being the first female presidential candidate campaign manager to lead a winning campaign.

Conway deserves credit for majorly kicking it at her job, whether you like the outcome she contributed to or not. I hope Trump makes her Chief of Staff.

Writing about Conway’s female mojo led to version about resenting that I can’t throw down a “told you so” dance. Even though I saw this coming, that we have a President-elect Trump isn’t exactly something I am celebrating being right about.

In that version I admit to not having paid much attention to the news over the last 24-ish hours. My last big information intake was on the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

It was quite a thing to watch all the national newscasters and pundits try to talk with jaws veritably out of joint from having dropped so hard and so fast about being so wrong. It was so pathetic, I had to stop watching, listening and reading for a while.

That brought me to my next version that focused entirely on those national newscasters and pundits. And the leaders of our two political parties. And all the entertainment personalities and donors that rounded out the three ring circus passing as a presidential election cycle.

That so many in the media, politics and entertainment were shocked by Trump’s victory shows the huge disconnect between the winners and losers of the post-90’s economy.  Those of us on the losing side saw this coming like a ginormous storm cloud growing on the horizon.

I also think too many people in the media, politics and entertainment underestimated just how sick of the Clintons some Americans are, sick of their policies, and their “public service” — so sick of them, these voters would rather vote for Trump, regardless of his flaws.

Frankly, that Clinton and her team didn’t see this coming shows just how inadequate a strategist she is.

In that version of this post, I pose the question:  What can major party politicians, the national mainstream media, and the elites the fund the whole circus learn from this election cycle? Answer:  They need to step out of their echo chambers more often to talk to and with citizens instead of at them. Further, they need to stop pretending that Trump’s victory was all about misogyny and racism.

To do so is a disservice to millions of Americans who did not support his conduct, but were DESPERATE for change. To do so is a disservice to the millions of Americans who were not choosing between which candidate they wanted more. Millions of Americans were voting for whichever candidate they found less repugnant; and one of those candidates promised to drain the swamp that enabled his rise to this moment in time.

That kind of a choice breeds divisiveness.

That thought led to yet another draft about how the folks running the show don’t even know Main St. America anymore. The two major parties are so out of touch that they couldn’t even see how clearly Trump and Senator Sanders were speaking to and with Main St. America instead of at them.

In that version I pose the idea that contrary to the current storyline, I don’t think Americans are as divided as the parties and their funders want us to think we are in order to maintain their status quo — a status quo designed for party elites and their donors, a status quo that hinders progress on things that matter to the average citizen while the ultra-rich continue to get richer and poverty remains roughly the same ad infinitum.

As evidence I offer the fact that the voting block that isn’t enrolled in either of the two major parties is bigger than the membership of either party. That means the largest voting block, while diverse in backgrounds and political leanings, is unanimous in its collective decision to reject the two party system.

That’s more agreement than the Democrats or the Republicans have going right now.

Other evidence of commonality? Both Bernie supporters and Trump supporters primarily wanted to tell Washington DC and Wall Street where to go, and it isn’t heaven.

When Dems took Bernie out of the equation, Trump was the only candidate left that represented a giant middle finger to the establishment, and that’s the message big chunks of the population wanted to send.

But then those thoughts reminded me that the biggest evidence that we, as a citizenry, are more alike than we are different are the wonderful men and women who make up our military past, present, and future. That thought immediately brought me back to the Veterans Cemetery I’ll be visiting on the 11th, and I realized I’ll be extra sad this year.

One of the Veterans Cemeteries in North Augusta.  Photo by Trish Callahan

One of the Veterans Cemeteries in North Augusta. Photo by Trish Callahan

Normally, I find some solace when I visit my friend’s gravesite, sitting surrounded by the peaceful reverence created by those neat rows of white stones honoring the lives and service of Americans — Americans from a variety of backgrounds.

Like my friend, the grandson of a slave originally from Pennsylvania and Virginia resting next to names I recognize as Irish or French — families with Maine roots going back generations resting next to other names from a variety of histories. All American. All came together in their moment in time to answer the call of duty to protect America and our interests.

Photo by Trish Callahan

Photo by Trish Callahan

That thought made me realize that it’s a good thing that Veterans Day falls so close to election day, especially this year. Maybe as we think about our fine service people — past, present, and future — this weekend, maybe we can also think about being a united citizenry worth dying for. I’m not sure that’s who we’ve been for the last year or so, maybe longer.

We have no where to go but up, and it starts with talking to and with each other more, listening more, overreacting less — especially in online communications and party rhetoric. When our fine service people put their lives on the line, they are doing it for all Americans; and after this election cycle, it’s high time we started acting like we deserve it.

Endnote:  Unfortunately, Democrats will read this post thinking it’s the Republicans who need to clean up their act and their rhetoric, and vice versa. It’s all of us, though.  We ALL need to start listening more and spewing less in order to be able to take the actions necessary to progress as a nation.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.