Fear and anger, an often-lethal pairing, don’t typically play a role in long term planning. Action taken under their influence is usually visceral and immediate with minimal consideration of consequence. When fear and anger play out politically we can take some comfort that in our country the dangerous pair’s wrath can be released by strokes on a ballot and don’t need to ride on the trajectory of a bullet.
Election night brought to mind Emerson’s observation from a conflicted time in our country’s past. While having sailed through a tumultuous period an unexpected event occurred that he described as a “shadow of an uncalculated eclipse” came over us. The feeling of an encroaching and pervasive darkness slowly enveloped as the evening wore on. It was as if we suddenly were on a ship lost at sea.
A vote total confers a legitimate winner. However, legitimacy in governing is not limited to a vote count it also includes the notions of suitability and fitness regarding an office holder’s talent and temperament. Those qualities will be tested in due time.
The ship of state never gets to dock. No matter who is at the helm of the flag ship, the vessel must be replenished and, if necessary, repaired while at sea. The water’s unpredictability and sheer power tends to temper and humble even the most arrogant of captains. Staying on course demands diligence, attention to detail and constancy. Only experience can confirm the captain’s legitimacy which is established, methodically and quietly, eventually evolving into trust.
When a storm arises, the waves swell. It is then that legitimacy is definitively tested. Fear and anger are not useful assets at that point. Character, preparation, the ability to assess threats comprehensively, adroitly and to formulate and execute a judicious course correction are the requisite skills. The test will come. It may be the product of nature’s mercurial forces or the more insidious and nefarious acts of terrorists. The response must be deliberate, competent and reassuring. We need to have confidence in the captain.
For many, this election’s result will remain shocking and even debilitating for some time to come, the ship of state rudderless absent a competent captain. Our country though is actually a fleet of ships of many shapes, colors and sizes. Most us though will sail on only mindful of the flag ship in times of crisis, responding to our duties with a faithfulness that perseveres and supersedes the rancor and vicissitudes of politics.
Eclipses don’t endure. The darkness lifts and day to day concerns take precedence. Fear and anger may briefly energize but they provide no sustenance, no guidance regardless of their source or supposed righteousness. They sink ships not sail them.
We are not and will never be all in the same ship but we are and will always remain in the same tempest-tossed seas. Our destinies are linked by our successful navigation of the waves that represent our shared challenges.
No matter how facile, fickle or faulted our captain may be, the fleet sails on finding guidance in the stars and taking comfort in another Emersonian maxim, that; “Not only where the rainbow glows, but in the darkest meanest things, there always, always something sings.”
Mindful that every ship has its special song and no matter how fragile the vessel we will brace ourselves for the rough seas ahead, we sail on together. We will get through this.
David Bradley is the state senator from District 10.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.