My favorite of Scout’s excellent photos.
That’s why we do this. That’s what politics can be. That’s why elections matter. It’s not small, it’s big. It’s important. Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated. We have our own opinions. Each of us has deeply held beliefs. And when we go through tough times, when we make big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions, stirs up controversy. That won’t change after tonight. And it shouldn’t. These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty, and we can never forget that as we speak, people in distant nations are risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter — (cheers, applause) — the chance to cast their ballots like we did today.
I think I don’t like the bipartisan argument, the civility argument, the insistence that America is so horribly divided and that everyone should be nice and agree and not fight, because they all smack of fear.
Fear of a raised voice. Fear of a harsh word. Fear of feelings hurt, of offense given or taken, of the kind of questioning that happens when a deeply held belief meets its equal argument.
Fear of weakness. When fear of weakness is the greatest weakness of all.
Think of all the arguments you don’t have, every day. They don’t have to be big ones. Think of the small things you don’t talk about. With family, with friends. With your employers. With yourself. Is there anything more exhausting, more deadening, more destructive than the fights you don’t have? We’re all so afraid of the knock-down, drag-out. We never think to fear the smothered, the stuffed-in, the starved frustration of the things we don’t say. We never think to fear them, but they kill us slower and surer than any door-rattling barn-burning brouhaha. They kill us by stifling us. They kill us by teaching us to fear our own voices.
All night long on the TV were David Gergen and all the CNN hairdos mouthing stupid nonsense about how the popular vote division meant Obama had a tremendous obligation to compromise and “reach across the aisle” and I kept threatening to Elvis my television because there’s no magic way of reaching that will make rabid wolves not bite your hand off, like how much more can he give up? Maybe just one cut to Social Security, just one part of Medicare here or there, right? It’s what we’re all afraid of, even in this victory, right? A dubious bargain, an empty compromise, a pointless gesture that costs us far more than its rewards.
It’s something I’ve never been quite confident the president understood: Compromise in service to a goal is one thing. Conflict avoidance so as to minimize the need to sing to God in your own voice is another. Be proud of what you want, and fight to get it. We’re socialized to be such good little boys and girls and never, ever, ever ask for more than we think someone will give us, instead of asking for what we want. We hedge our bets and limit our options and keep our powder dry for a perfect moment that never comes.
Here stood the president, saying let’s yell it all out. You disagree with me, fine, convince me. Do your best. You think I’m wrong? Say so. Cut the passive-aggressive shit already. You think you can do me one better in a shorter timeline for less cost? Let’s have it, for God’s sake, quit screwing around. America has ever been divided, not in twain but in a thousand thousand pieces and those pieces are our lives, so for the love of God stop bemoaning the need to get off your ass. Sack up and fight it out like it matters because it does. It deserves to matter. You deserve it to matter.
Don’t be afraid of the raised voice. Of the harsh word. Sticks and stones can break your bones but opposing arguments make yours stronger, and only a coward fears gaining strength. For God’s sake, nobody will ever give you what you want unless you’re strong enough to ask for it, and if it’s not granted, to demand it. And two sides of an argument don’t always meet in the middle. Compromise isn’t always possible, nor should a middle ground always be sought. Sometimes you have to add up the numbers. Sometimes you have to risk looking, sounding, feeling mean.
The arguments we have are a mark of our liberty, the president said.
The arguments we win are the making of us.