- Wall Street Journal
- November 10, 2012, 10:00 AM ET
Surviving Post-Election Blues
(Or Reds, Depending)
Aren’t we all a little sick of being a country that operates like a big dysfunctional family, so perennially disgusted by each other that we dread holiday gatherings? Isn’t everyone fed up with living in our Two-Conspiracy-Theory System, wherein the minority party spends four years trying to prove how the majority party is dismantling the Constitution? Isn’t there some way for us to live in harmony with those whom we accuse of hastening the apocalypse?
I’m talking to you, senators and congressmen who govern by tantrum…as well as to assorted friends, Romans, countrymen and teenagers who are too busy texting. It’s important to remember that most of the time, we’re all in this together (though I can easily be talked into excluding those who refuse to look up from their smartphones).
In the name of finding more civil, adult ways to communicate, allow me to offer some of my time-tested methods for defusing touchy postelection situations.
First, before any potentially explosive get-together, be sure to do lots of physical exercise. Studies have found that “tired” looks almost exactly like “loving serenity.”
Obviously, it also makes sense to call a moratorium on all partisan gloating. Toward this end, remember that silence can be just as infuriating as name-calling. So no more rocking back and forth while whistling and making that face with the raised eyebrows and the faint smile that says, “Don’t look at me. I didn’t say a damn thing!”
At the same time, be sure not to take explosions of political rage personally. Instead try to identify which childhood trauma may be at the root of these outbursts. Then hug that person gently and whisper, “I hear that you are angry. I hope you know that I’m here for you if you want to cry.” Then, as you dry their tears, take out your cellphone and share a few of your favorite animal videos. Don’t forget the one with the cat that is a door stopper enthusiast. Hey! Where has all that seething hatred disappeared to now?
Or here’s an idea that always works: Have a pity party. Everyone is always saying, “Don’t have a pity party,” but that’s because most people don’t know how to throw a good one. The key is to invite a large number of vain people who are upset about thinning hair, gaining weight or developing nasolabial folds. No matter what their political inclinations, anyone exposed to this crowd for just a few minutes will be unable to focus on anything but an escape plan.
If none of the above works, remember that the best counterattack is an unexpected response. When your uncle says, “People don’t want a democracy. They want a baby sitter!” pause for a minute, then say, “I can’t figure out who you remind me of. Who’s that blond actor in his 30s who was in that cop-buddy movie? Or was it a reluctant superhero? Ryan someone? Or Brendan?” This will launch you into a soothing whirlpool of undifferentiated celebrities and their interchangeable movies, which can last as long as necessary.
In the end, the key to getting along is finding the things on which everyone can agree, thereby redirecting free-floating anger toward a common enemy. So begin to collect the names of obnoxious drunks, conspiracy theorists and deluded people hoping to break into show business. If they aren’t available to attend your gathering, the same result can be achieved by serving chicken nuggets and tuning a prominently placed television to some grotesque reality show…maybe the one where cretins ruin the lives of perfectly nice catfish. A rousing discussion of worthless pop-culture egomaniacs and pink slime is just the thing to show political antagonists how much common ground they share.
Which is why I would like to propose that in 2016 we do things a little differently. Clearly, we now live in an era where our elections, like our winter holidays, go on for about a year. So how about if next cycle we soften things up by adding Election Trees, red, white and blue lights, and gift giving? This would not only stimulate the economy but also create new, more traditional avenues for releasing partisan anger. After all, there’s nothing like a holiday celebration for bringing Americans together while also offering an outlet for their pent-up rage.
Ms. Markoe is an Emmy Award-winning television writer. Her latest book is “Cool, Calm and Contentious.”