The Stupid, The Evil, And You -- Surviving Life After Election

Your favorite candidate won. Or, lost.

It's been a few days. You've gotten some of the gloating or grief out of your system. Maybe not all of it. Maybe you feel like you'll never get it all out.

But somewhere in the back of your mind, you're wondering... what now? Time marches on, and the facts pose an inescapable problem: There are about 60 million people who were rooting for the other side. They're grieving while you're gloating, or vice-versa.

Yeah, yeah, I know: that means 60 million people agreed with you. Those are your favorites. I get it. But I want to talk about the other half. What can you do about those people?

One easy solution would be to get rid of them, physically. But the thing is, they're not all in one place. They're inconveniently located in the same places you and your 60 million hang out. If your half of the country seceded from the other half -- even if your state seceded from the other states -- they'd still be all around you. And you can't secede from your neighborhood, because then you'd need a passport to go grocery shopping. So, physical separation is out.

Maybe you should try to get rid of them emotionally. You know, detach and devalue. That sure sounds easier; it's a mental exercise, not a physical one. All you really have to do is collect them up into a label that can be ridiculed and ignored. You know, THOSE people -- the ones who are so...

Wait a minute. This is important: you need to figure out exactly how to collect and devalue them. Those people, who are so, what, exactly?

Stupid? That's a tempting answer. But do you really want to argue that you're smarter than every one of those 60 million people? Be careful about that. Some of them are working in hospitals, in technology, in finance. Some are creating art, growing food, inventing or supporting the infrastructure we rely on. Claiming that all of them are dumber than all of us would be pretty ludicrous. If you're not smart enough to see that, well, your "smarter than" argument is in even more trouble.

OK, so forget stupid. How about evil? They are so evil. All 60 million of them. Pinky to the lips, cat in the lap, sharks with laser beams on their heads, evil. Right. Except when they're doing stuff like: going to the grocery store, loving their families and children, working to pay their bills, taking care of their aging parents. Then they're just -- what? A little evil? Not so good? Misguided? Whoa, careful there double-oh-seven, you're going soft on the evil and going back to just stupid. We already talked about that one.

Besides, are you sure all of them are really more evil than every single person who voted like you? Even that SOB who ran over your toes with a shopping cart last week, and then laughed about it? He voted with you. Or how about your horrible ex, the one that ruined your life and crushed your heart for sport? Politics was the only thing the two of you ever agreed on.

Hmm. As it turns out, there are some pretty badly behaved people within your favorite 60 million. Tough to sell yourself on the idea that the ones on the other side are all, without exception, uniformly worse.

Hey, I know, let's do an "and/or" structure. All 60 million of the people who didn't vote like you are evil and/or stupid. Some are more evil. Some are more stupid. Some are both. That should cover the whole crowd, I think.

The problem is, this is starting to sound like the juvenile whining of a pre-pubescent kid in trouble with the school principal. "Everyone who doesn't agree with me is stupid or mean. And Mrs. Balderdash is both!"

Sixty. Friggin. Million. You can't separate them physically. And you can't come up with a way of devaluing all of them to the point that they can be ignored, unless you're willing to descend to a level of immaturity that would -- among other things -- invalidate any claim you were attempting on superiority.

Damn.

Eventually, you'll exhaust all the mental constructs that would have allowed you to dismiss "them" because they're much different, and so much worse, than you. When you do -- and I'd encourage you to do so as quickly as possible -- you'll be left with the painful, existential realization that you can't separate "us" from "them," physically or emotionally. Which is why, in the back of your mind, you've already started to wonder: Now what?

That's the question that should be worrying you going forward. It's the question that's so much more useful than gloating or grieving: What in the world are we going to do -- all the millions of us -- besides gloating and grieving?

See, this isn't sports. Don't be fooled: Gloating and grieving are different in this context. Detachment because you don't agree with the result doesn't free up time for you to watch something else you like on TV. Instead, it leads to more real-life results that you like even less. And trash talk after the fact doesn't help your team's morale as they go into the finals. Instead, it further fractures a society that, to succeed, has to operate as a whole.

It really must -- it's inconvenient but true. Our society can't serve any of us if it can't serve all of us. There's just no way to get rid of "them" -- because "they" are among us, in every sense. "They" help us, in so many ways, even as we help them. Actually, if you want to get really philosophical, they ARE us.

Don't worry. You don't have to get that philosophical. You don't have to agree with "them." You don't have to do everything "they" want you to do.

But you do have to -- WE do have to -- get to work understanding the differences; get to work on productive solutions that meet "their" needs while they meet our own. Not because doing so is kind -- though it is. Not because doing so is right -- though it is. But because the alternative is to live in a world where everyone is more stupid, and more evil, than everyone else, and nobody will agree to collaborate on anything.

The day we make that choice, we will have gone as far as we're going to go. No more advancements, no more improvements, no new solutions to problems that need solving. The end of our ability to work together is, for all of us, really the end.

And I think you'll agree: that's not the result any of us wants, needs, or deserves. Not even the ones who are a whole lot more stupid and evil than you.