By MARSHA MERCER
Four years ago this week, I wrote about “The Things They Carried,” Tim O’Brien’s haunting short story about the weight of things foot soldiers carried in Vietnam.
The soldiers carried necessities as practical as mosquito repellent, as powerful as anti-personnel mines and as personal as memories. The short story is a classic, beautifully written, rich in detail and as poignant now as when it was first published in 1990.
Rereading it made me start thinking about the New Year, what I wanted to carry into 2017 and what I hoped we could leave behind.
I mainly thought we should leave behind the 2016 presidential election. At the time, the wounds of Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump were still fresh. Her supporters were devastated, and recriminations were flying.
Yes, the election was a shock, but we need to let it go, I said.
Commentators were prolonging the agony, and even President Barack Obama opined that he could have beaten Trump in the general election had he been able to run again. I thought that was the kind of wishful thinking Democrats should leave behind with 2016.
In retrospect, the 2016 election was a civics lesson. While Democrats were sad about Clinton’s loss in the Electoral College, after winning 3 million more popular votes than Trump, they did not deny Trump’s victory. No one harped for weeks the election was rigged or voter fraud rampant. Clinton was gracious in defeat.
No one could have imagined then how the Trump presidency would shred democratic norms and values or that it would end in a Trumpian hail of false claims of victory, spurious attacks on election and state officials and even on Republicans who dared to acknowledge reality that Joe Biden won.
But Trump has always been all about Trump. Even after dozens of defeats in the courts challenging election results without producing any verifiable evidence and numerous failed overtures to bully state legislators into overturning the will of voters, Trump continues to rage against facts and truth.
“Can you imagine if the Republicans stole a Presidential Election from the Democrats – All hell would break out,” he tweeted Tuesday from Florida. His temper tantrums are ludicrous but also dangerous.
Trump still has many dedicated followers, and I write this knowing they will see red – and not just their MAGA hats – at my opinion.
Democrats, take note: Trump was the most admired man in America in 2020, Gallup poll reported Tuesday, with 18% of respondents naming Trump compared with 15% for Obama. Trump toppled Obama from the top slot after 12 years.
Biden came in at 6% and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, 3%.
When Gallup asks people the open-ended question which man and woman they admire most, the incumbent president usually wins, the pollster reported. But 21% of respondents this time did not offer an opinion at all and 11% named a relative or friend as the man they admire most.
So what should we leave behind in 2020? I wish we could leave the disputes over the 2020 presidential election, but we know Trump will never concede. He’ll keep flailing in the mud from Mar-a-Lago or wherever he ends up after Jan. 20. But Americans will no longer need to pay attention to his sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Biden has a rocky road ahead, and it’s made more difficult by lies that he gained the office by cheating. Biden, though, already is showing a contrast with the last four years of megalomania. He has the experience at governing that should help restore confidence in our battered institutions.
He’s surrounding himself with a diverse group of competent people, starting with his choice for vice president. Kamala Harris will inspire new generations of young people to public service.
And what should we carry into 2021? You already know. We need to keep our masks and hand sanitizer close and our social distance. We need to fight coronavirus fatigue and be ready to roll up our sleeve to take the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s our turn.
That’s the only way we truly will put 2020 behind us.
Happy New Year.
©2020 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.