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Move on--We Don't Have Time for Tears

November 26, 2000|CLANCY SIGAL | Clancy Sigal is a novelist and screenwriter

A Soviet general in World War II once gave an order of the day: "Bury the dead. Send back the wounded. All the rest, forward!"

George W. Bush, it now appears more likely than ever, is our new president. My losing side--the liberals, progressives, radicals, tree-huggers, Naderites, ardent Gore Democrats--probably will cut one another up in tiny bloody ribbons of factional venom and blame-calling. It's happening already. Some observers say they haven't seen this kind of intramural ill will, triggered by Ralph Nader's "spoiler" candidacy, since the bad old days in the 1950s when anti-communist liberals and anti-anti-communists tore out each other's guts, to the delight and profit of Cold War hawks.

What's the point? There's blame enough to go around for the next thousand years. Two lame candidates spent hundreds of millions of dollars and, like corpulent sumo wrestlers, grappled each other to, what? A virtual tie.

Every time a progressive third-party candidate--whom I supported in this election--surfaces to defy machine-and-money politics, Democrats and liberals feel betrayed that "we" are taking votes away from Harry or Adlai or Hubert or Al. The venom helps only to keep us disoriented, disappointed and dismayed unto paralysis.

As the Italians so elegantly say, "la lutte continua"--the struggle continues. Presidential politics are a kind of quadrennial sport, in a way a diversion from the much lower-key life most of us lead.

But a Bush presidency would not be a fait accompli of bad things unless we stand by and make it so. Pressure politics, community activism, single-issue advocacy, local passions--all will go on regardless, and "getting involved" can keep the incoming administration more honest than it might like to be.

Choosing an issue and working on it is the best therapy I know for despair. For each person it will be different. Maybe, at the start, the only thing we'll have in common is mutual venom and a shared, dim memory of what an American democracy functions like when people of good will, regardless of party affiliations and past disputes, work together for something they believe in.

Bush, Al Gore and Nader and their smarty-pants consultants, for their own political purpose, have done enough to separate us. Personally, I could not care less if the man or woman I'm working next to at a volunteer table is a Republican, Democrat, Green Party member or a hallelujah-no-taxes zealot. Yes, we will all have different cosmic agendas. But it doesn't matter, at ground level, where most of us live and try to keep our homes together, or whether we survive on single or double incomes that anyway seem to buy less and less.

We all know the economy will "dip" sooner or later. It will come like a storm and hit most of us hard. The issues separating us are serious. But the future, and the need to protect each other from its worst injuries, may prove even more so.

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