Upfront, I want you to know that I believe there is a bipartisan message in this article. If you are honest, I believe you will agree that the current political environment is nasty. Whether you lean blue or red, we the people and we the constituents are bombarded daily with obscenities in the name of democracy.
Recently, I was searching for solace in this political environment, and I relied on John Donne’s poem, “No Man is an Island.” I found the repetitive reminder that we are all a piece of the whole quite comforting. “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…” To me, I took away that we are all in this together, and surely, we will figure this out for our own collective betterment.
But there was a piece of the poem that I could not reconcile. I think my original interpretation was more of a reflection of what I needed to hear, rather than an honest analysis. The last line of the poem states, “And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Frankly, I ignored this grim sentiment. Granted, it doesn’t have to be morbid. One can interpret this line as a mere conclusion to the message of wholeness. For me, I subconsciously felt uncomfortable and not ready to find its subjective application in my life.
Although I moved on, the words haunted me. Watching the day’s offenses on nightly news, as is my ritual these days, I found myself revisiting those words. Then, one night, the words had context. The bell tolls for us. This didn’t happen over night. This political environment is not the result of a single election. The democracy that we have is the democracy that we deserve. There has always been a question of whether we are growing better as a society or better at hiding our bigotry. I think we have our answer.
The Anti-Defamation League reports an increase in Anti-Muslim harassment and Anti-Semitic acts, such as online hate speak and bomb threats. Similarly, the League reports white supremacy recruitment efforts are rising on college campuses. Did this hatred begin on November 8th? Absolutely not. We are the same people we were on November 7th. The results of the election merely flipped a light switch to reveal our dirty secret. Now, our hatred is without shame and displayed at rates some of us have never experienced in our lifetime.
I am a naturally optimistic person, so I have to believe that we will work through this and surface stronger for the experience. Maybe we need this chaos to identify our weaknesses. Maybe the bell that tolls is for the illusion we have constructed that we are a nation of tolerance and acceptance. The systemic lie we have created imploded. It is now time to address the virus itself, not the symptoms. We can be better. We must be better.