Why I Write

From time to time someone asks me (as, no doubt, they ask other writers) why I do it.  Why, specifically, I write fiction as opposed to nonfiction.  It really is hard to explain to those who seem tone-deaf to what we call Art.  Sometimes it’s hard to explain to yourself.  The short answer for me is that I love it.  I love creating stories and weird stuff and making up plots, because I always loved stories.  (When I was a kid, I’d watch movies in which a group of people are thrust into a really cool adventure and at some point one of them would talk about wanting to just go home and having everything return to normal.  And, as a kid, I’d think why would you want to do that?  Can’t you see that what you’re doing now is so much cooler than going back to a dull life?  That was a kid talking, of course, because the stories were in fact so much cooler than what passed for my “real life.”  It’s only later that you realize that part of your “real” life was the freedom to indulge stories, pretend, and thrust yourself—quite safely—into adventures.)  Telling stories just felt like the coolest thing to do.

But then you grow up and actually try to do it and if you stick with it long enough to discover all sorts of other aspects to it that you couldn’t imagine as a kid just looking for a neat ride.  And that’s the art.  And that is hard to describe to people who don’t read fiction, who don’t Get It.

Dan Simmons wrote a novel called The Crook Factory about Ernest Hemingway in WWII.  He lived in Cuba then and he ran an amateur spy ring, hunting submarines, for a time.  This much is true.  Simmons built a very intricate and thrilling novel around it.  His viewpoint character, though, is a FBI agent who is one of those with the tin ear, who doesn’t Get It, why someone would write fiction.

Late in the novel they have a conversation about it.  Here is part of it.

“Why do you do it?”

“Do what?

“Write fiction rather than write about true things.”

Hemingway shook his head.  “It’s hard to be a great writer, Lucas, if you love the world and living in it and you love special people.  It’s even harder when you love so many places.  You can’t just transcribe things from the outside in, that’s photography.  You have to do it the way Cezanne did, from inside yourself.  That’s art.  You have to do it from inside yourself.  Do you understand?”

“No.”

Hemingway sighed softly and nodded.  “It’s like listening to people,  LUcas.  If their experiences are vivid, they become a part of you, whether or not their stories are bullshit or not.  It doesn’t matter.  After a while, their experiences get to be more vivid than your own.  Then you mix it all together.  You invent from your own life stories and from all of theirs, and after a while it doesn’t matter which is which…what’s yours and what’s theirs, what was true and what was bullshit.  It’s all true then.  It’s the country you know, and the weather.  Everyone you know…the trick in fiction is like the trick in packing a boat just so without losing trim.  There are a thousand intangibles that have to be crammed into every sentence.  Most of it should not visible, just suggested…

“Anyway, the…trick is to write truer than true.  And that’s why I write fiction rather than fact.”

That’s one way to describe it.  I didn’t realize truth had anything to do with it until I read an Algis Budrys review of a Gene Wolfe novel.  He said of Wolfe that he told the truth well.  I puzzled over that for a time before it clicked.  I’d been saying something of the sort for a long time concerning philosophy—that there’s truth and then there’s fact.  Occasionally the two meet and become tangled up and are in many respects the same thing, but mostly there are facts, which have no meaning.  Truth is the meaning, which must be derived or extrapolated from fact.  Which led me to the conclusion that Truth is a process, an ongoing experience of recognition.  One of the places I’ve found it has been in good fiction.

I don’t know if Hemingway ever actually said the above—it sounds like something he would have said, though, which makes it true, whether there is the fact of it or not.  And that is what fiction does.

The Curmudgeon Speaks

The curmudgeon in repose observes the feckless maunderings of the primates in their dispeptic self-justifications.  Christmas is coming.  You can see it, feel it, sense it.  Not only in the more pleasant garnishments appearing too early (and hopefully) in stores and streets, but in the renewed efforts of those who can’t get past their own distorted misapprehensions and so fling the feces of their discontent at the crowds.

A couple years ago I received one these from an anonymous source.  It purports to be a letter from Ben Stein, based on a broadcast he did one Sunday on CBS.  From the page you’ll see that it was added to, taken out of context, and corrupted.  The source from whom I received it this year surprised me, so I shot back the link to this site.  Naturally, the person in question was miffed.  No one likes to be told they’ve been a patsy.

There’s an ugliness to this kind of thing that upsets me a lot.  Basically, it is the linkage of No Prayer to Ruin and Death.  All those people in New Orleans, in this formulation, lost their homes and lives because people elsewhere had stopped praying.  So god let the waves in to punish us—and then didn’t bother to tell us that’s what he’d done.

Never mind the whole dubious connection between prayer and anything remotely like the salvation of a whole city from a hurricane.  I recall once seeing a news broadcast from Italy of a priest standing adamnantly flinging holy water at approaching lava from a volcano, as if it would do anything to dissuade the destruction to avert.  Coincidence and serendipity account for enough weird conjugations in this world so anyone with a mind toward conflating unrelated events can point and say “See!  It Works!”  But really, all this attests is the cloying desire to feel that something in the universe actually cares other than your next door neighbor or the dog.

Basically the notion here is what?  We have barred public prayer from public school classrooms and tossed a couple of creches off public property and the result is that god, irked, inundates a city?  Or just allows it to happen?  And why would that be when the overwhelming majority of citizens in this country profess to believe in god and pray a good deal?  Once again we are told god is some kind of emotionally-stunted adolescent who needs our total attention, lest he throw a tantrum and kill a few hundred thousand people every now and then.  And then we go to church and are exhorted to give thanks to a god who “loves us” so much that…

I don’t need to address in detail, you all know what I mean.

Come on.  Do people really buy that?  I mean, the whole Christmas decoration thing is irritating and I can understand people not wanting their holiday messed up with politics, but to make the extra leap and suggest that we’re being punished over some superstitious equivalent of not throwing salt over our left shoulder when we spill it is a bit much.

Yeah, I know, some people really do think that way, but a lot of other people just tacitly let it go by as challenging it might make them look like Scrooge or something.  It’s such nonsense.  Why shouldn’t we be able to call something like this garbage without looking like curmudgeons?  It’s ugly.  It’s false.  It’s a lie on its face.  But some people just have to let the rest of us know how much we’re Not Getting It.  Some people have to send these lovely missives out just so we don’t get the feeling that Christmas is a time of love and good cheer and giving and that we should feel better about the world.  Some people just have to act like the midges they are and try to make us the same way.

Sigh…. and just when I was starting to feel festive.

So the holiday season begins.

Bah Humbug.

Rio Bravo

I had to go to Wal-Mart this past weekend.  I know, I know, big box store, destructive of small town America, yadda-yadda.  I hate them, but once a year we do a Wal-Mart run for all kinds of stuff that, frankly, just ain’t as cheap anywhere else—toilet paper, vitamins, tissue paper, day-to-day Stuff.

Usually I go with Donna.  This time she was in Iowa and I did it solo.

Since I was there anyway, I browsed the big stack of remainder DVDs they always have and I went a little bonkers.  I bought the first season of the original Robin Hood with Richard Greene.  I remember the show as a kid and loved it, so for $5.00, why not?  (A real stitch, too, to see all these young actors who later did so much better—a skinny Leo McKern was a real hoot!)

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Shane, The Mask of Zorro… I’m filling gaps sort of.  But I came home and immediately watched Rio Bravo.  You know, the movie got made over at least twice, maybe three times.  The best remake was El Dorado, but the original has something about it that the rest lack.  I loved the soundtrack, the overamplified gunshots, the seriously deficient acting of Rickie Nelson.  It’s a real jumbled mess, you know.  Dean Martin’s performance was the best thing in the film and it’s actually really damn good.  Wayne was, well, John Wayne.

There are two John Wayne movies from back then that I think showcased what the man could actually do.  I think he was such an icon that he really couldn’t be seen as anything else, so some of his performances were seriously underappreciated.  Anyone who thinks the man couldn’t act hasn’t seen The Searchers, which is a very disturbing movie and Wayne played a very disturbed character.  The other one was The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.  Wayne isn’t the main character.  Not quite a supporting role, but definitely part of an ensemble, and it really is a rather convincing, sometimes moving performance.  It’s very much about the waining (pardon the pun) of the macho guy of the West.  His character is tough, independent, building his life competently, laying plans, and being, in the larger scheme of things, a Good Man.  But he loses it all to the educated Easterner who shows up in the guise of Jimmy Stewart carrying a stack of law books.  Both men get a lesson in realities, but where the lesson destroys one, it makes the other, and it is anything but a simple formula western.

(I suppose you could throw Red River in there as well, but then we could go down the list of great Wayne westerns that were just…well, pretty fine, actually.)
Rio Bravo, though, is the pure stuff of early western myth.  It’s formula to the core, but Howard Hawks made it work like a well-tuned V-8.  The photography was terrific and this DVD had restored Technicolor print.  When Technicolor was good it was the best.  There were times, though, when it didn’t work very well, but that was the cinematographers’ fault.  Here it works.

One thing, though—Angie Dickinson.  She got better, but she really wasn’t a very good actress.  Nice to look at though, and she actually held her own against Wayne, but…well, she got better.

Wayne became a target in the Sixties and Seventies for people who were intolerant of any kind of unapologetic patriotism, and he did overdo the flagwaving.  It’s a shame, but it was a war of symbols.  When you talk to people who knew him, the public image was somewhat at odds with the man himself.  I spoke once with George Takei about him.  Takei was in The Green Berets with Wayne and, despite their differences politically, he had nothing but nice things to say about Wayne, who labeled him Captain Sulu from day one.  Takei said the rule on the set was No Politics.  It was a smooth, cordial set, and Wayne was responsible for keeping the latent heat at a manageable level, an impressive feat given the subject of the film and time it was being made.

Wayne avoided military service in WWII because he had a family.  I don’t know exactly how that worked—lots of men with families went—but he somehow made the argument that his presence in films would be more beneficial than his presence on a battlefield.  Depending on how you look at it, he was right.  It raises the question of how authentic one needs to be to espouse patriotic feeling.  Did Waynes later flagwaving require that he make the ultimate sacrifice, or could he be a patriot without needing to wear a uniform?  He put on a television special in the late Sixties about America.  It was a bombastic jeremiad about how wonderful the country is.  He did, however, get a lot of interesting people on it, like Robert Culp, who was very much an anti-war protestor at the time.  Thinking back on it now, I realize that at no point in it did he advocate going to Vietnam.  He never said that to be a Good American one had to put on a uniform and pick up a gun.  He just pushed the idea that the country was worth loving.

His last film, The Shootist, was a sad one.  He went out in a blaze of gunfire, taking out a number of old enemies in one last shoot-out.  It can be read as an unapologetic, last hurrah for the way of the gun.  But it was also an admission that times had changed and he was dying, and the fitting end to his life would be to die as he lived.  A little over the top, that, but in its way bravely tragic.  After seeing it, one could go back over a long body of work to see elements of that tragic admission that this was all over.  And probably just as well.  Nathan rescued Lucy from the Indians, brought her home, and then had to leave.  He didn’t belong anymore.

Wayne was one of the first and for a long time the only Big Name Star who allowed himself to be killed on screen.  I don’t know if that was his idea or if he just accepted it as a necessary part of good storytelling.  But there are many Wayne movies wherein the “hero” must leave, because the violence necessary to resolve the conflict makes him unsuitable for the world he has just made safe.  I think that gets overlooked a lot.  Too much.

So It Begins

This is a charming little story.

Priest dumps all over his parishioners.

Now, I was never a Catholic, but I once considered marrying a Catholic girl and went through some of the obligatory classes at her church.  We got to the part about promising to raise the children Catholic and I said no, that wouldn’t happen, and he (the priest) said then we couldn’t be married in the church and I said fine, then we’d continue living in sin and there wouldn’t be any children.

Kind of brought the whole relationship to a screeching halt, if you take my meaning.  Probably the best thing for everyone concerned.

I tell you this to give you some idea how I feel about priests (of any religious persuasion) threatening their audience.

Quotes

A few of these seem particularly poignant given current events.

They say Mitterand has 100 lovers.  One has AIDS but he doesn’t know which one.  Bushg has 100 bodyguards.  One is a terrorist, but he doesn’t know which one.  Gorbachev has 100 economic advisers.  One is smart, but he doesn’t know which one.                  Mikhail Gorbachev, 1990

I’m Vanilli because Milli is in the White House.           Ted Kennedy at a Christmas PArt, dressed as Milli Vanilli,1990

I believed in [Jim] Morrison’s incantation.  Break on through.  Kill the pigs.  Destroy.  Loot…All that shit.  Anything goes.  Anything.  I tried anything in that state.                                                   Oliver Stone, 1991

Maybe We Will

I did not stay up for the speeches.  I waited.  I just now watched Obama’s acceptance speech.

Not a victory speech.  An acceptance speech.  There is a difference.  He hasn’t really won anything.  Yet.

I cannot remember the last time I felt a tingle run through me at the words of someone with a vision.  I always listen with a salt shaker at hand.  But my word, I felt it this time.  I am cautious, but just maybe we will see something new.

To all those who have already declared themselves ready to oppose Obama and all he stands for, to the Limbaughs, the Ingrahams, and the Hannitys:  you are small souls, stunted in imagination, and cynical in disposition.  You have lost the ability to imagine.  You cannot set aside your aversion to change, or your denials of hope for the time it takes to find out if someone may be honest and honestly intended.  You are the Ellsworth Tooheys, the James Taggarts, the Joseph McCarthys, the Pat Buchanans, and your role models are Timothy McVeigh and Oliver North and, iconographically, J.P. Morgan and Henry Frick.  You so cherish your power to sway people with charred words and bullying bombast that you cannot do the one thing that an Obama quite legitimately asks—set aside differences, come together, work for a future.  You have decided in advance that you do not wish to live in that future, that its shape and size and the decor of its rooms will not suit your taste.  And if it turns out to be a fine future, well-furnished and abundant, you ahve already decided that the people who will live in it do not deserve it.  The maggots of cynicism have shredded your minds and there is no redemption for you from without.  You must save yourselves, but please, don’t do it at our expense.

I wonder truly just what it is you fear.  What is it you think you will lose?

Maybe you’ll figure that out as time goes on.  Or maybe we will, and learn to live without you.  You are, in the words of Milton, Blind Mouths.

Kindly stay out of our way.

The Morning After

I didn’t sleep well last night.  I do not usually watch the election night circus.  Generally, I have an attitude of “It will be what it turns out to be” and either read a book or do some work, going to bed early.  Last night I started watching, though.

I would never have believed how anxious I’d become over this.  I really did harbor the sinking fear that McCain, somehow, would win.  That the majority of my fellow citizens would actually vote another Republican into the White House, with all that such a move implied.

I couldn’t stand it.  I saw that early lead, flipped from station to station, watched the South started rolling over for the Republicans once more, and just couldn’t stand to watch.  It wasn’t the kind of popular landslide I wished for.

What did I hope?  I’d hoped people would wake up and realize that, no matter what their aspirations, fantasies, private dreams, or desires might be, most of us are not wealthy and never will be.  And with that realization the fact that voting for the best interests of the CEOs of GM, Ford, Exxon Mobile, ADM, et al is not the same as voting in your own best interest.  Those folks did not grow rich by extending their largesse to the Common Folk.  They got that way by maximizing the flow of cash into their own pockets.  That’s not a stereotype, it’s a business model.  And to suggest that recognizing that fact is somehow Class Warfare is to misunderstand the nature of Class.  They are not a Class, they are an aberration.  They will cut each other’s hearts out and eat them just as readily as sacrificing the best interests of the general public if it served their individual need.  There is little solidarity among them, other than the kind one might find among a group of Mafiosi, who join forces when expedient, but turn on each other in moments of weakness.

I’d hoped people would realize this, and that they really didn’t have to worry about their own futures by denying the existence of common cause with such people.  (The classic canard that higher taxes and regulations on wealth act as disinventives for entrepreneurial aspirations needs to be debunked once and for all—the highest period of economic growth of the 20th Century was the Fifties, a time when taxes on wealth were so high trhe jokes were common currency high and low, yet people still struggled mightily to “make it big” and created a land of prosperity unparalelled in history.  If you make so much money that you slide into a higher tax bracket, you have still nonetheless made a lot more money!  And for the most part, you get to keep it!)

Clearly that didn’t happen.

The Republicans have since the Seventies managed to convince us that when someone says he’ll raise taxes on people making over $250,000 a year, he means we’ll all pay such taxes.  As if we all make that kind of money.

Let’s be real for a moment.  Donna and I do all right—we’ve done better, we’ve done worse—but we’ve never been anywhere close to six figure incomes, singly or together.  We’ve never even been in the upper five figures.  Most of the people we know live in the middle five figure, and of those most are below 50K.  That’s the reality for most of the country, I think.  When I listen to politicians bandying figures around about what constitutes Middle America (where is that I wonder?) I scratch my head and puzzle about who it is they’re talking about.

To be fair to voters, once you make your way up into those higher income brackets, a kind of amnesia takes hold and you forget from whence you came.  When some of our more well-to-do friends complained about their taxes going up under Clinton, they spoke with us as if it happened to us as well.  They were utterly dismayed to hear that we’d gotten tax cuts.  How’d we manage that? they asked, as if there were some kind of trick to it.

We don’t make as much as you do.

Anyway, we turned off the tv and went to bed.  And failed to sleep well.  Donna got up at three, wandered into the living room, and turned on the radio.  I lay there for a minute or so, then followed her.

She looked at me with encircled eyes, perched on the edge of the couch.  “I think maybe,” she said, “just maybe…”

Then we heard it:  President-elect Barack Obama.

A switch opened in my head and a flood of tension seemed to flow away.  I went back to bed and slept deeply.  Overslept.

This morning I checked the news services for the statistics and saw the national map, red and blue states marked.  Missouri is still too close to call, as are one or two others.

340 plus electoral votes, to McCain’s 160.  More than 2-to-1.  Not to mention the gains in the Senate and House.  Yes.

But I look at that map and damned if the stereotype just doesn’t hold still.  I live in a part of the country that, according to that map, is still Republican.  The exceptions are striking.  Obama took New Mexico and Colorado.  He took Florida and, to my utter dismay, Virginia.  Florida isn’t really a “southern state” as such and the rest of The South went for McCain.  Why?  Because he’s Republican or because he’s white?  Who knows?  I can guess, but it would be an opinion that could only be confirmed piecemeal, and inaccurately.

Some of the poorest states went with McCain.  I do not understand.

It’s curious that I felt such concern, because in a way Bush’s eight years touched me very little.  My life hasn’t changed much in any way that I could attribute to his policies (or lack thereof).  I have no relatives in Iraq or Afghanistan, I’ve never been censored, I have not been directly impacted by anything but the sharp rise in gasoline prices (which could have happened under any president, though his economic policies certainly did nothing to ameliorate the problem).  I’ve been able to go where I want to, say what I want to, pretty much buy what I want to, read what I want to.  It has largely been an intellectual problem for me.  I chafe at the attitudes.

My point is, that in many ways we are natural subscribers to Republican policy.  We’ve been responsible, kept our personal debt very low, in fact we own our home, and until last week had no car payment, we’ve saved whenever possible, and lived within our means.  I do have problems with people who blithely live as if consequences never adhere to ill-considered actions.  We have no children, though, a conscious CHOICE which does run counter to Republican rhetoric (though I wonder how many of those red-staters who vote to overturn Roe-v-Wade and ban sex education from the schools themselves have more than one-point-six children and use contraception as if it were a natural-born god-given right).  I believe entitlements are poorly-conceived and ill-managed…but that’s not the same as condemning them outright as somehow morally evil.

Point being that on the surface, we look like Republicans.  It’s so profoundly superficial as to be laughable.

Yet clearly my sense of moral outrage has turned me into an anxiety-ridden anti-Republican, no question.  It is the outrage aimed at those who actually don’t seem to Get It.  They don’t see why we should extend considerations to foreigners, or rights we take for granted to those who don’t meet our model for ideal citizens.  They don’t see why Being Strong is not the same as being a bully.  They don’t understand the nature of problems, only want to call an exterminator when one crops up.

I feel that the country has been on a bender in a bad part of town and now we’ve all woken up on the morning after and in the full light of day have a chance to see just what it is we’ve gone to bed with.  We have a choice, now, to see it as having been a really bad idea.

But it seems a lot of people woke up and thought “Hey, it don’t look so good, but the screwing was awesome!  Let’s do it again!”

Fortunately, they can’t stay for breakfast.

Oh, and it might be a good idea to make a doctor’s appointment and make sure we didn’t catch anything, you know, fatal?

A Few Thoughts On Election Day

This morning we got up at four so we had time to drink coffee, wake up, and get to the polls early.  I thought the lines would be long and neither of us have patience for standing around waiting.

Our poll is within easy walking distance.  Often, in local elections, we take Coffey, and she can get all enthused and friendly greeting people coming and going.  Not this morning.  We arrived at St. John’s Catholic Church and entered the basement of the school.  Six others had beaten us there and they all sat on a pew outside the actual cafeteria space where the voting machines were still being set up and adjusted.

The first gentleman in line was elderly and had till this year been one of the poll workers.  “But they kicked me out this year,” he said.  He didn’t seem bitter about it and maybe there was good reason—he wasn’t getting around too well—and proceed to tell us some stories about back in the day.

More people arrived, including a young woman with two small children, one in a carrier.  Conversation was friendly and quiet.

No one talked about the election.

This was the first year Donna had not received her voter card in the mail.  I checked with the Secretary of State’s office on the web to confirm that she was still registered (I thought she was, even though I’ve heard all the rumors of purges and so forth—this was just a mailing snafu) and everything went fine.

By the time we left the line was at least a hundred and fifty people long, shortly after six.

I complain about the politics of this country a great deal.  I complain about the people I know who express occasionally absurd opinions.  I worry that we won’t get our collective act together until too late, whatever “too late” actually means.  I don’t like us being a laughing-stock in much of the rest of the world.  I am as incensed over the policies of the last eight years as I have ever been in my adult life about politics.  I have found myself able to say the good word or two about Reagan, Bush Sr., even Nixon, but I have found no redeeming qualities in the present resident of the office.

But I do love this country.

Anyone who has the temerity to question someone’s patriotism because they disagree with a course of action either has no grasp of what it is they’re defending or is commited to a vision of this country that runs counter to everything good about it.

Bold words?  Perhaps.  But think about it.  The characteristic trait that marks our national policies since 1789 is that we can change our direction.  We can rethink and then act to alter a course.  We can try something out and if it doesn’t work discard it and try something new.  We can remake ourselves as a nation.

That is what is happening today.

Things have gone wrong with our home.  Termites have gotten into the wood work, and it’s time to clear them out and rebuild the damaged parts.  And we will do it without bloodshed.  We will do it without throwing out the parts that still work.  We will do it out of the stuff that truly informs our identity.

Americans confuse people elsewhere.  We seem at times to have no standards, no principles, no sense of commitment.  We are fickle, reactionary, often foolishly adolescent in our choices of what to do next or where to go.  We adhere, it seems, to no single idea of right.  We make claims for being committed to freedom and then from time to time do things that demonstrably contradict that claim.

And yet.

And yet when we go wrong, we right ourselves.  We went wrong in 1787 by not dealing with slavery.  In 1863 we corrected that.  In 1832, we erred in the person Andrew Jackson by declining to pursue economic policies that would unify currency and stabilize the internal money system.  It resulted in years of instability, fast-moving currency decimations, and laid the ground (partially) for the Secessions of the 1860s.  We corrected this.  By the end of the 19th Century, we were a nation dominated by monopolies.  We dismantled them and began the long battle to end the virtual servitude of American labor.  Ther 20th Century is marked by a series of innovations aimed at establishing the kind of egalitarian society envisioned by Jefferson and others, culminating in the correction of race relations encapsulated in the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act of the Johnson Administration.

We could go on.  These back-and-forths came out conflict between interests that, while having certain broad characteristics in common with their predecessors, quite often sprung from disparate groups that seemed to have little in common.

Except the will to do better.

What is better, though?  Is it the same thing today as it was a hundred years ago?  Hard to say.  It’s an ongoing discovery, with the added complication that “Better” for one person may not be for another.  We end up, then, in constant dialogue.  Things get bad when we tire of the debate.  We had a massive debate in the Thirties about what had gotten us into a Depression.  While it took a world war to get us out of it, the scaffolding we built during ten years of constant dialogue remained and proved what we’ve come to call the Safety Net—and it worked.  In the Sixties we had a bitter argument with ourselves over the limits of power and the morality of labels.  We exhausted ourselves by the Seventies, and a tired nation stopped paying attention while the forces of retrenchment and privilege undid much of what we thought we’d won.  We’ve been in the midst of another debate since the mid-Nineties, the shape of which was tragically bent by 9/11 and the hysteria that followed.  We seem to be getting back to it now and today may mark a turning point in our quest to determine what it is we mean by Better.

There is no single label for the core principles of Americans.  Nor, really, should there be.  BY definition, it will mean something slightly different for everyone.  We have managed in over two centuries to—not without difficulty, sometimes ugliness—learn to accommodate that diversity.

Tomorrow, regardless who wins the election, we will once more be neighbors.  Some will be very disappointed and they will no doubt express it, be angry, and some will try to work to change it.  After all, when you get right down to it, what is a president?  He’s an employee.  He works for us.  Later.  Meantime, we are friends.  There are other things that bind us more thoroughly than elections.  We will laugh and love and try harder to do better.

We’ll talk.

Mostly.

I look forward to it.  That’s why I like it here.  That’s why I can say, without a splinter of embarrassment, that I love my country.