Monday, November 14, 2016

(No Longer) The Smartest Kid In Class

The Trump sign that someone placed in my yard in April.

Greetings All:

I woke up early the day after the election. I had not slept well that night and suspect many of you did not either. I checked my phone to confirm what I already knew in my heart: Donald J. Trump had won the presidential election.

Wow. My next Commander-in-Chief is this guy. “WTF, over?”

I did not support Mr. Trump in either the primary process or the general election. My main gripes with him was my belief of his simple unfitness to serve as Commander-in-Chief. However, I had plenty of criticism for him on other issues. As for his moral bearing to be President, I had written that off a long time ago. I viewed him as a distraction and quite frankly the death of the Republican Party in its current form. It is why I laughed when I saw someone had put a Trump sign in my yard this spring. I posted a picture on Facebook and immediately secured it safely in my garage. This was an artifact that needed to be saved. After all, “Trump’s flaming out,” or so I thought.

My fellow citizens disagreed.

I won’t bore you with a bunch of citations to facts, figures, charts, as I suspect you’ve seen plenty of hand-wringing analysis as to why Trump won. I do want to share with you Dr. Kathy Cramer’s interview with Jeff Guo of The Washington Post. Dr. Cramer’s book, “The Politics of Resentment” is her work on helping to explain why there is so much anger by working-class people in rural Wisconsin. Here’s a link to Mr. Guo’s story:

Here’s a quote from the article from Dr. Cramer that sums up, at least for me, one of main reasons Trump won:

“Part of where that comes from is just the overarching story that we tell ourselves in the U.S. One of the key stories in our political culture has been the American Dream — the sense that if you work hard, you will get ahead.

Well, holy cow, the people I encountered seem to me to be working extremely hard. I’m with them when they’re getting their coffee before they start their workday at 5:30 a.m. I can see the fatigue in their eyes. And I think the notion that they are not getting what they deserve, it comes from them feeling like they’re struggling. They feel like they’re doing what they were told they needed to do to get ahead. And somehow it’s not enough.”

Oh, and by the way, this story was published on Election Day. If that’s not a procrastinator of things to come…

I live in Iowa, yet no where near a farm. If you were to drive around my area, you would think you were in any other suburb of America. I am doing just fine economically and the things that I fret about are clearly “First World” problems. True, I like to think my wife and I work hard, contribute and are good citizens. Yet for me to claim I have some “economic kinship” with the people Dr. Cramer has profiled would be laughable. And I will be the first to tell you my standing in my community and in this country, economic and otherwise, is attributable to many, many people who helped me along the way.

So as I have been thinking about this election, I think it is only fair I acknowledge one simple fact: I was wrong, flat-out wrong.
I was certain Clinton was going to win. I had already worked out some of the things I would say to my Republican/conservative friends (and I consider myself fortunate to have) about the election. I’d listen patiently and with sincerity to their lamentations of how terrible a Clinton Administration would be, that America would be forever scarred by her. And, of course, at some point, I’d say, 

“Well, I told you so.” 

I would be the smartest kid in class.

I don’t feel that way today. And I suppose if I want to be really honest with myself, that might be one of the biggest reasons I am upset about the election.

And if any of you reading this feel the same way, that is OK. I think people can do things for many different reasons. I do so everyday. What is not OK is to claim some moral high ground without at least giving nod to ego and the internal need to be right, to be the smartest kid in class. After all, isn’t acknowledging you’ve got an issue/problem the first step to a cure?

So I’m not the smartest kid in class. I got this one way wrong. I got too comfortable with The New York Times’ election predictions. I was so sure enough people would see the election the way I saw it that there was NO WAY Trump could win. Then the rest of America weighed in….

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time reading up on Stoic philosophy. Ryan Holiday has done some terrific work in this area. His book, The Daily Stoic was what I listened to during my walk Wednesday morning. The great thing for me about Stoicism is the road map it provides for living life in the world as it is. For me, it boils down to this: Don’t worry about the stuff you cannot control. Focus on what you can control, your thoughts and actions. I’d encourage you to visit Ryan’s site at The Daily Stoic here and check it out for yourself.

Rosie and I walking on the Wednesday after Election Day. She could have cared less who won.

As I walked with my dog Rosie last Wednesday morning and listened to Ryan’s book, recalling the wisdom of the great Stoic thinkers I realized that I had no control over the election results. I did my part and voted. I expressed my opinions and contributed as I thought best. Could I have done more? Sure. Would it have mattered? Nope. As we came back home, I saw the sunlight stream out from behind the trees. It was pretty. Everything was going to be just fine.

So for those of you still reeling from last week’s loss, I invite you to let it go. Go volunteer for a charity, go read some Stoic works, watch the winning field goal in Iowa’s epic triumph over Michigan from Saturday night, or whatever you feel will make you feel better.

And speaking of feeling better, maybe it is because I am half-Irish, but I endeavor to be an optimist. I do see something positive from this election, here it is:

All the experts and self-proclaimed smart guys like me did not count on folks voting who did. These people participated in the process, they had their voice heard. I can question their judgment and still celebrate their involvement. That is the beauty of our system.

There is much to learn from this election. Once the dust settles, I intend to review what happened and figure out why so many people voted for President-Elect Trump. 

It is clear I still have a LOT to learn. So much for me being the smartest kid in class.

I congratulate President-Elect Donald J. Trump.

Be well my friends,

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