Well, thank goodness that's all over; now it's time to take a breath and step back, regroup and rethink the way we Americans approach everything. Start with this, from Andy at Under the Sun:
She's a Beauty, Isn't She?
And it's worth noting that Kerry's concession speech was gracious...
...and that Bush's victory speech was also gracious (hat-tip for both: Yankee from Mississippi).
And we can keep in mind that part of the whole point of a system of government like ours is the expectation that people can meet together as rational agents of good will and honor, to try to solve our problems together. It takes the hard work of trying to understand those with different views, and the equally hard work of always trying to see your own views in a new light, rather than letting them rigidify into dogma, malice, or fear. And alas, it takes the even harder work of being patient enough with those who have already let their views rigidify, knowing full well that it wouldn't take much for us to go the same way. All this is necessary for our mutual improvement; and it is this mutual improvement that is the heart of the American Way. For what makes us all Americans, the one thing we all share that can inspire us all, is never the America that is, but always the America that we know can be. At the heart of who we are is a pragmatic idealism, a firm recognition that it is by setting always in front of us a shining vision of virtue that we make the clearest and most definite progress. It is what unites us, perhaps as motley and divided a group as there could be, into a single people.
I have heard much this past year about the dangers of a slide into a totalitarian government; and I agree that it is a danger that faces us. It is a danger that faces any powerful republic, particular in times of great trouble. But this perpetual danger is not a danger because of the Presidency; it is a danger because Congress always faces at least some temptation to sell itself and the people it represents out, to fail in its responsibility, its duty to be a rational and deliberate body, carefully considering all the actions of the United States government in light of the common good and our constitutional principles. I hope all of us Americans will see fit to consider deeply that, for all the importance and excitement of the Presidency, our most important votes Election Day were not for the President but for Congress, and I equally hope we will take up the responsibility such votes demand, the responsibility of being ever vigilant with regard to the actions of Congress, ever ready to hold our representatives responsible for their decisions in our behalf, and ever ready to support them against encroachments of power when they act according to duty. This, above all else, is the primary defense of the people against all totalitarianism. I will go further, and say it is the only defense. This defense, this perpetual vigilance, is our chief responsibility as Americans.
And the last thing to remember is that invocation which echoes throughout the years of our existence: God bless America. This means not that all things are right with us - they never are - nor that our side is the side of God - for it very often is not. It means rather that there is a side that is right, and it is our hope that we have the strength to be on it. It means that there is a higher law to which human law must answer if it is to be just; and we are responsible for seeing that it does answer. It means that there is an America, whose glory is a passion for freedom, whose greatness is a firm resolve for justice, whose power is found in the three words "We the People", whose excellence is in the recognition that all human beings are created equal. It is never entirely the America that is. Indeed, for the most part it has never been at all the America that is. But it is the America that can be; and when our predecessors have said, "God bless America," it has always meant: annuit coeptis - the nod is given to our undertaking. Not what we have accomplished (it is never enough) nor what we hold up as the banner of our pride (our pride, as every other, shall be cast down), but our undertaking, our endeavor. What we, as Americans, have undertaken to accomplish, a shining city on the hill - it is worth doing, for all our infinite failures in doing it. We should take time to remember this in times like these, for it is who we are - an endeavor, never completed, never perfect, never entirely adequate, but utterly worthwhile. So I say, and I hope you can say it with me: God bless America. We need such blessing, as we have always needed it and always will.