Reflections on a surreal season.
Every weekday, the dog and I head up a very steep hill for a compulsory early morning walk, an essential daily ritual for wearing out a highly energetic adolescent canine and fending off decrepitude in his older human companion.
At the top of the hill, we turn right and get within a block of the home of two very close friends who live half the year in Italy. Whenever they are away, I think about these friends as we reach that patch of sidewalk, remember they are gone, and feel the ache of missing them. It is that weird sense that they are there, but not there (and for more on perception’s relationship to reality I encourage you to read my colleague Pat Joseph’s essay on page 36 about philosopher George Berkeley, an engaging and inspiring read for alumni of the eponymous U).
A similar but far more jarring reality shift hit me the morning of November 9, when I woke to find myself adjusting to life in a very different Republic than the one I was living in when I went to sleep–It’s here, It’s not here.
The battered Republic of the day before might have been standing on shaky ground and destined to collapse under the weight of its divisiveness—anyone with a computer and a Twitter account knew that. But it seemed to be holding together—if only barely—by some fundamental set of shared American values of decency, honor, civility, compassion. You know, some variation on that quaint notion that we all want the same things and want them for one another.
That may sound naïve now, it probably was even then, but it’s that very fantasy of a common reality—one that demands of our political candidates limits on public behavior and discourse that at the very least stops short of bullying, taunting, and threatening and that punishes them for outright expressions of racism, sexism, xenophobia, and mendacity—that had pollsters, media, and political operatives from both parties disgusted by the entire campaign and confused by its outcome.
What a difference a day makes.
The new Republic that I, the dog, and every citizen of the U.S. woke up to that morning had undergone a dramatic and largely unexpected political change. Republicans had both houses of Congress and the Presidency. But there was also a profound cultural transformation, one that for me is epitomized by the forthcoming transition at the White House. Ending his residency there is a man who, irrespective of his politics, is a lawyer, a constitutional scholar, a statesman, and a dignified family guy to whom not a whiff of scandal or prurient gossip had stuck in his eight years in office. In his place will come a businessman and former TV celebrity, a self-described political amateur, whose personal and professional life have raised questions—many arising from his own public declarations—that will follow him through the door of his new home.
There is still a certain disorder to this new world order. It’s definitely not here yet.
The dog and I got to the top of the hill and saw that the sun was up and blasting light so bright that the bay looked like it was on fire. Another golden day in the Golden State. A good place to be.
Wendy Miller is editor in chief of California.