Please, I'm begging: Stop!
Stop forwarding e-mails about how this is the worst time in the history of America.
Stop posting on Facebook that the country is so screwed up that you won't even vote.
Stop listening to TV pundits growling that the America we love is on the verge of collapse because of — pick your poison — socialists, Democrats, Republicans, tea partyers or the wicked mainstream media.
Today's midterm elections will be a test of character, all right. For voters.
Here's the part where I'm supposed to talk about how people risk their lives to vote in places such as Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan. You probably already know that, yet projections indicate millions of you can't be bothered to vote. If that's your view of patriotic duty, then nothing I say at this late hour is going to change your mind.
So let's talk about the collective mood of America.
Forget those interactive maps on cable TV that reduce our country's landscape to blocks of red and blue. We are the same gloriously complicated America we've always been. We're quibbling and squabbling at the moment, just like all moments in American history. What an exhilarating tradition.
As Abigail Adams once said, "these are times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed."
So let's not be dummies and just complain about all that's wrong with America. Think Abigail. Think genius. Celebrate your luck of citizenship. Hug an opponent, even.
Okay, maybe not hug. Fist-bump 'em. You can do that. Yes. You can.
Now, I am not about to claim that I don't care about the midterm elections. I probably care too much. Blame it on my parents. I'm the daughter of a union activist and a friendly feminist. I was born political and blossomed into a liberal long before I needed a bra. Can't deny the DNA, friends.
But my enthusiasm has limits, and it's been sorely tested in this election cycle. People are acting crazy. The first time I saw a Republican Senate candidate insist she was not a witch, I pinched myself to make sure I hadn't died and taken a wrong turn on my way to the celestial reunion. Every time I hear a Democrat brag about how much he loves guns, I have to jump on the treadmill and run 2.2 miles. And I hate running.
Still, I'm not about to smack the back of my hand to my forehead and declare America hopelessly divided. I've had it up to my arched eyebrows with hyperbole and fear-mongering meant to scare people into voting against their own best interests or, worse, not voting at all.
We are not living in the worst of times. Not even close.
For three days in 1863 in Gettysburg, Pa., Americans fought Americans until nearly 5,500 of them died. Another 22,000 of them were wounded.
In 1917, women were thrown into prison — and some of them nearly died, too — because they had the nerve to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote.
In 1942, we rounded up more than 100,000 Japanese-American citizens and Japanese residents — men, women and children — and forced them to live in internment camps on American soil.
Until the 1960s, a big chunk of our country thought it was okay to hang black people from trees and make postcards with photos of their mutilated bodies.
Those were some serious worst times.
Don't like today's campaign ads? Turn off the TV; hit the "eject" button on the Barcalounger; and go find the real America. It's a thrill.
We've got plenty of big problems. But dishonest candidates, nasty ads and goofy protesters armed with false facts and three-cornered hats are not signs of Armageddon. They're just evidence that America's still working. Not to our schedules, perhaps, and certainly not always to our liking, but democracy isn't meant to woo or wow. Democracy is supposed to be a long, slow slog.
No matter what happens today on Election Day, life will go on come Wednesday.
Children will board school buses; grown-ups will wake up tired; and Old Glory will flutter on flagpoles from coast to coast. Even if millions of our citizens refuse to vote, America will keep working.
God bless America.
God knows we need it.
© 2010 Creators Syndicate