Thursday, November 10, 2016

Something is Wrong

Years ago I heard a story about my grandfather, Henry Dieffenbach, and how he handled a dispute between my aunts, Helen and Eleanor.

Helen and Eleanor were teenagers at the time and they were fighting over whose turn it was to do the dishes. Again.

My grandfather, who was a piano player for silent movies in New York City in the 1920s, was on his way out to work for the evening show. He had heard them fight before, many times. This would, in fact, be the framework of their relationship for their whole lives.

Henry listened to Helen and Eleanor bickering. Then he made a decision. He reached over, lifted the dishes out of the sink, walked to the basement doorway and threw the dishes down the stairs.

“Now no one has to do the dishes,” he said. That got their attention. And then he went to work.

Tuesday night I watched the election results with surprise, like most everyone else. We had been told by the experts what we should expect and the outcome was exactly the opposite. What happened?

Half the country threw the dishes down the stairs.

The easy answer is for one side to say the other side doesn’t know what they voted for. They got conned. But tens of millions of intelligent, well-informed people voted Tuesday and half of those well-informed people had something to say: No one is listening to our concerns. No one is addressing our problems. We want to be heard.

So rather than one side dismissing the outcome as the result of a bunch of ignorant "deplorables" surging on our electoral process, maybe we should acknowledge: Something is wrong.

I’ve been a part of and settled many disputes in my career and what always fascinates me is how blind one party can be to its own faults while blaming the other side. That drives the other party crazy. People usually behave in a rational fashion to fulfill their own self-interests. In the case of the election, no one voted to make America worse. They voted to make America better… for themselves. What we now have is the result of 59 million people saying, “No one is paying attention to me, so I am voting for change.”

Set aside the news highlights of the bad behavior, comments and t-shirts from some of the rallies. Those highlights don't tell everyone's story. And don’t ascribe all voters’ decisions to the worst things a candidate said. Interviews I watched with voters Wednesday showed normal, caring, middle-class and working-class people who said, “We’re tired of struggling for decent jobs, paying high taxes and not being able to afford a better life for our children.” One 65-year-old former factory worker said, “I didn’t like the choice I had to make, but I wanted to send a message.” He was not alone in his sentiments, and that message came crashing down on us all on Tuesday. Now it’s up to all of us to get to work and answer that request for help.

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