Charles E. Richardson

The year of our mass schizophrenia is finally rolling to an end

Christmas is coming early for me this year — and probably for you, too. The next time we talk, the 2016 election cycle will be history. My only wish and desire is that the election be clear and decisive and the final poll of the people will have been taken and a winner named. After that what more could I ask for? Plenty, but I’ll save most of those wishes for a later column.

As outer-wordly as this election has been, it is the sort of fodder history is made from and we will be able to say to our grandchildren — and in my case, future great-grandchildren — that I lived during a time when all known rules for running a campaign were tossed in the dumpster and a time when a new normal took over the land. I’ll leave to historians to say whether it was a period of mass schizophrenia or just an angry revolution intermixed with demographic shifts and economic uncertainty as the nation marched toward a future that inevitably is leaving some people behind.

It doesn’t matter which of the candidates you support, there will be firsts. If Donald Trump wins it will be the first time a person has beaten a direct path to the presidency from reality TV without a minute of political experience in between. If Hillary Clinton wins, for the first time in this nation’s 241-year history, we will have a woman as president, our 45th. If Gary Johnson were elected, he’d be the first Libertarian to run the country. With Jill Stein of the Green Party, we’d get a two-fer, a woman and a first for her party, though if she passed me on the street I wouldn’t recognize her. Evan McMullin, as an Independent, would also be a first.

Other than the election, there’s a lot about 2016 I’d just as soon forget. We’ve had killings of unarmed black men by law enforcement and the demonstrations that followed. We’ve had police officers ambushed and killed in the line of duty as they’ve tried to protect us. We’ve seen a fraying of the American fabric that I’ve seen coming for quite some time.

We’ve also seen coarseness and incivility almost everywhere we look. People are getting their cues from social media, and what used to be considered crass is just everyday conversation. People feel loosed to say anything about anybody at anytime, and before long, everybody is going to have to carry a weapon to protect themselves from anybody who’s got a weapon, which will be everybody. What a country.

But most of all, I’m going to miss several friends. Ed Grisamore explained in his piece last week about Palaver Clubs and what they are all about. Ed and I are in different clubs, but at my monthly meetings, I can’t look around the room without feeling a tinge of sadness. One of our members, Giles O’Neal, passed on March 5. Giles wasn’t the first member of our group to pass since I’ve been a member; however, our group is the second oldest in Macon and I’m one of its youngest members at 65. George Haskell III died at this same age in 2006 in a plane crash. And now we have been hit by another great loss. One of the pillars of our Palaver Club, Tom Bass, finally succumbed Thursday after bravely battling Parkinson’s disease.

No, 2016 can’t exit fast enough for me, but no matter the number, life will have its ups and downs. I’m constantly reminded of a poem by John Donne that I had to learn in Mr. Purdy’s literature class in high school. I had a lot better memory then than I do now. However, I can say I understand the meaning of “For Whom The Bell Tolls” much better now, than I did at 16.

No man is an island,

Entire of itself.

Each is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thine own

Or of thine friend’s were.

Each man’s death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind.

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.