In Evil Hour

As of this writing [Wednesday evening], we’re still in limbo. And I know I’m not the only one asking how we got here and what it might mean.

Three early notes on this difficult time:

  1. It’s not decided yet. A quick, decisive victory would have been a blessing, but it was not to be. However unsatisfying, though, limbo is not the same as a loss — so do not give in to despair or defeat.
  2. “Over” is still multiple steps in the future. The coronavirus continues to rage (much worse than when the world was ending in March and April); the response isn’t looking more effective; and the current administration still has two months in office, no matter what. Too, the election still needs to be tabulated, decided, certified, and conceded before the next term begins.
  3. To the extent that this is a “battle for [or referendum on] the soul of America,” the results so far indicate that this nation is deeply sick in our collective soul.

And it’s that last point I really want to dwell on here. Even if a presidential transition is in the cards, those of us hoping for one cannot forget these days and what they felt like. To do so would be to let ourselves much too far off the hook.

In a way a “blue wave” could never have done, these days should — at long last — puncture the persistent sneer that those people can’t really be serious about all this, after all. The tightness of the margins in such a large sample size, and in a contest where the choices couldn’t be clearer, clearly shows that whether or not we were this way four years ago, we most certainly are this way now.

It’s perfectly understandable to be heartsick at the depth of our soul-sickness. In fact, it’s probably necessary — coming to know ourselves is often painful.

And that’s what we’re doing, isn’t it? Anecdotally, the most consistent theme in my conversations over the past few days has been a chagrined sense of coming to see our shadow.

If we get the result we want in the end, it will be awfully tempting to forget this time and what it might say about strategy or governability or morality. But we must not forget. Having renounced “hopey-changey” stuff, we cannot now deny our shadow. It can change us for the better, if we let it.