My wife’s family had a schism going, back when I first met her, thirty-six years ago. One side had voted for and ardently supported President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The other side wanted nothing to do with the man. But the real family split came when Roosevelt expired during his fourth term in office. One grandfather came into the other grandfather’s shop and proclaimed, “Boy, am I ever glad that sonofabitch is finally dead!”
Neither side ever spoke to the other side again.
My science fiction writer’s instinct is telling me that this month’s historic Presidential election is going to be like that. Democrats are beating up and killing Republicans in the street. Wives are divorcing their husbands. Employers are dismissing their employees. People are boycotting other people, all because one of them voted for and supported the “wrong” candidate. Democrats are feeling that they’ve been demolished. (Don’t worry, they’ll be back.) Republicans are saying that this is just what 1964 felt like when Lyndon Johnson beat Barry Goldwater in a media-manufactured landslide. Despite everything, survived. Partisans will be keeping track of who voted for whom and vowing never to go to their movies again, forevermore.
Believe me, I understand, But life goes on, whatever horse you picked. I’m not saying it doesn’t matter who won or lost; it does, or I wouldn’t have bothered to vote. But for me, I just finished another novel, today. (I think this makes thirty-four, altogether.) In the long run, everything I said in it about life and love and truth and beauty will last much longer and remain far more important than whatever politician is in power. So will that afghan you’re knitting for your granddaughter. So are those pictures you’re taking, or that painting you’re painting. In the long run, they’re all vastly more important than any election or any President. In fact, if the Trump Administration can just learn to leave everybody in America the hell alone, it will go down in history with the greatest of them.
There’s a true measurement of the genuine significance of government for you: in its absence, real civilization flourishes. In its malignant presence, the hopes and dreams of ordinary individuals wither and fade and die. How many civilizations have risen and fallen without learning that simple lesson? How many Dreamkillers have occupied the Oval Office?
My own plan, for the next four to eight years, provided I can keep myself glued and taped together that long, is to breathe—and to do more writing. The novel I just finished today, Only The Young Die Good is about two almost ordinary people who have found love in one another, struggling to be decent in extraordinary circumstances, in a largely indecent world. The book I’ll return to the day after tomorrow, Ares is about people just like that risking everything to make a home in a new world. There are Presidents in the second book, and politics, but they don’t amount to much, compared to the reality the people in it have to face, and the character with which they face it.
I probably don’t have to tell anybody reading this essay that stamping your wittow foot, or holding your bweath until you tuwn bwue isn’t going to change a damn thing. Against all odds, Donald J. Trump got himself elected, and that may turn out to be a bad thing or a good thing. You pays your taxes and you takes your chances. I was born during the Harry Truman Administration and there have been so many horrifying regimes since then, I’m deeply surprised that the country still exists in any form.
If you backed the Democrat (you naughty person), I promise you, barring a massive asteroid strike, the country will still be here when the Republicans are through with it—or we are through with them. I also promise you that in the four to eight years to come, you will laugh, you will cry, you will do you work, and you will fall in love. No, I’m not saying “Don’t worry, be happy”. I’m simply saying live your life.
I still have a great many books to write. I wake up each and every morning, anxious to get to my desk. In that sense, I’m probably the luckiest guy who ever lived. If you don’t feel the same way, go find something that makes you wake up every morning anxious to get to work. It’s the only way for a civilized being to live.