To save America from election 2020 we can’t just knock over the board game of life

There are reasons to believe that the 2020 presidential election is tearing our nation in two. And there are also reasons to believe that Americans hold the power to refuse the rupture and to seek alternatives to anger and frustration.

When I contemplate the nation’s stalemate on winning and losing, my mind won’t stop circling back to a telling experience from my childhood.

As the youngest member of a family of enthusiastic board-game players, my first six or so years added up to an unbroken losing streak. Still, I persisted, picking up my cards, rolling the dice, and moving my token around the board . . .  until, suddenly, I quit.

My impatience with losing suddenly surged past control, and I knocked the board over.

My parents and older sisters saw this as a teachable moment. “We will give you another chance,” they told me. “But if you do that again, we will not play with you.”

This was one of the luckiest moments of my life, equipping me to respond to flare-ups of vexation with a forceful note-to-self: “Stay in the game. Do not knock over the board.”

In our fractured nation in November of 2020, a variety of groups, sectors, and factions are experiencing anger and frustration as they confront limitations, flaws, and deficiencies in the traditions, processes, and customs of democratic self-governance.

I know that there are millions of Americans who voted for Donald J. Trump who now feel now aggrieved and enraged by the defeat of their candidate.

I know that there are millions of Americans who voted for Joseph R. Biden and now feel aggrieved and enraged by the refusal of the president and a good share of his followers to accept the results of the election.

I know that there are millions of Americans, who may or may not have voted, but who have given up faith and lost trust in the premises, provisions, institutions, and processes of a democratic republic.

Invoking a story from my childhood, I do not want to trivialize the distrust, frustration, and anger felt by my fellow citizens in the second week of November 2020. And yet, as I watch the tensions brought to a fever pitch by the president’s refusal to make a concession speech, by his most devoted followers’ certainty that the election was stolen, and by the mounting impatience of the president-elect’s supporters who want the transition to proceed without delay, the words, “Stay in the game; do not knock over the board,” stay locked in my mind.

Has the time come to follow the example set by my elders and simply tell the discontented to comply with the rules or leave the game?

That approach does not score high on either wisdom or practicality.

Here’s another possibility.

In every possible civic forum, we could meet with each other — and listen to each other — to identify the arenas where adjustments in the workings of our democratic republic should come up for rethinking. We could join together to imagine the changes that might promote greater trust in our institutions while stopping well short of knocking over the board.

You can contact Patty Limerick at [email protected], and you can find her blog, “Not My First Rodeo, at the Center of the American West website, https://www.centerwest.org.

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