Monday, November 5, 2012

Patience

"It's such an insult, thay dunt bauthr." David was born in north central England, but over the course of the past ten years working in Australia, his accent has morphed. He and Walt are stacking wood on the lower deck most likely chipping away at the presidential candidates, tomorrow's election and the electoral process as a whole as they work.

I can usually count on David to have an opinion: an opinion about Formula One racing, about the best hot sauce on the market, and about world affairs. He's fairly knowledgeable about current events and passionate about his position. I try to listen but often find the hairs on my arms tingle as I fight the urge to balance the equation with an alternate point of view, the success of which is doomed to failure. And so I shut up (which I might add is not the same thing as being silent).

The general election is tomorrow, but we voted early today and were delighted to find an hour and a half of our fellow constituents in line with us waiting patiently to exercise our right to complain.

I tend to look at the election process as an interview. Each candidate brings a resume full of party-backed opinions and promises, most of which I put in a mental bucket. My eye is on the candidate with broad shoulders. The candidate who looks at the greater whole and considers solutions that will stand the test of time. The candidate who pauses to consider the questions put before them and considers options from all sides; the candidate who chooses integrity over popularity. The patient candidate.

One of my high-school girlfriends shared a post on Facebook yesterday that pointed to the challenges that women faced before they were given the right to vote. Although the 19th Amendment had passed in 1920, only one of my grandmothers were of voting age and I'm pretty sure she voted for Harding. I'm not sure that this particular history lesson has anything to do with today's voters and I'm particularly annoyed by the group's catch phrase: "Don't iron while the strike is hot." Walt irons his own shirts.

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas engaged in a series of seven debates: true face-to-face debates, with no moderator. They took turns. My guess is that there was a coin toss, followed by the winner opening with a one-hour speech on the topic of his choice. His opponent was then allowed an hour and a half to rebut, followed by a half-hour closing remark by opening speaker. Then it was the other guy's turn.

They listened: each candidate reflected on the comments of his opponent before responding. They showed respect: each candidate waited his turn, giving his opponent the floor to share his thoughts and opinions. And each speech was timed meaning that retorts waited until the full breadth of each man's bluster had expended itself across the crowd.

The first televised presidential debate was held on September 26, 1960 between US Senator John F. Kennedy (Democratic nominee) and Vice President Richard Nixon (Republican nominee) in Chicago. It's interesting to hear many of the same issues we rehash today. But I marvel at their discipline; their composure: a gentleman's debate. That took patience.

Thanks to YouTube and the JFK Library for this wonderful video: (http://youtu.be/gbrcRKqLSRw)






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