ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DALE SUDERMAN
The first Tuesday in November is autumn weather in Chicago. Daily the temperatures decline and threaten to plummet into ice and snow. Daylight-saving time conceals but does not hide the shortening of days.
My gutters and front yard are filled with dead leaves-a reminder of the rich heritage of summer but, also, that I have more work to do before winter arrives.
Autumn is a solemn season. Summer has provided for us. But now we are on our own. We must strategize how we will survive the coming winter.
This is a fitting season for a presidential election.
Elections were initially set on the first Tuesday in November to accommodate country folks-by this time, their harvesting was essentially done and their roads were not yet blocked by snow and mud.
Country folk and city folk and all Americans who live between these two identities will have the common opportunity to find their local polling places.
I will return to my polling place in the church hall of Holy Innocents Church. I will tease the “Republican” judges about their one-day change in party affiliation. “Are you really a Republican?”
The college students and housewives trying to earn $100 for a day’s work will smile sheepishly and say, ‘It’s a living.”
While I wait in line, the diversity of my neighborhood becomes apparent. The impatient businessmen on their way to work, the frail old ladies pushing walkers, hipster artists embarrassed they are doing the same thing their parents are doing today, and new citizens reading voting instructions in Polish and Spanish today all share the common identity of citizen and voter.
I can safely predict the outcome of the presidential election: About half of all Americans will not see their choice for president selected.
When we pray for those in authority over us, at least half of all Americans will add softly, “Bless him, but don’t blame me dear Lord-I didn’t vote for him.”
Kansas and Illinois are not swing states, Bush will sweep Kansas and Kerry will win Illinois.
The presidential campaigns revealed the choice we face.
John Kerry is a man who thinks-some see this as a weakness, accusing him of changing his principles to accommodate facts. He is an austere rationalist attempting to complete a New England trifecta of the New England Patriots and the Boston Red Sox.
Bush is a man of emotions and feelings who often ignores the facts to accommodate his emotions and principles. He is more like the man who will drive 300 miles in the wrong direction before he will ask for directions. “I feel like I’m going in the right direction-and it’s hard work.”
He has the loose logic of country western “crying in your beer music” fighting the tight, difficult logic of a Boston Symphony.
Both Kansas and Illinois share a common heritage of being organized by rational New Englanders, but increasingly populated by the romantic illogic of the American South and Southwest.
Kerry must pretend he has feelings and enjoys shooting birds. Bush must pretend he can think and not merely feel.
For this reason, Kerry and Bush are alien to both Kansas and Illinois-our states are both unique mixes of northern logic and southern emotions.
Our autumn votes will eventually be translated into selecting a president. In the dead of the coming winter he will take the oath of office and we will live with the consequences.