The great­est worry of all

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - Kath­leen Parker Colum­nist Kath­leen Parker is syn­di­cate by The Wash­ing­ton Post Writ­ers Group.

ST. PETERS­BURG, FLA. » If I were to dis­till a re­cent pub­lic dis­cus­sion about the state of our nation to one word, it would be “wor­ried.”

Not fear­ful, not an­gry, but wor­ried — about the fu­ture; about an elec­tion sea­son that has made evil-clown sight­ings seem weirdly apt; but mostly about what will hap­pen af­ter the elec­tion. How do we mend the deep di­vi­sions that have evolved dur­ing this thor­oughly nasty — and, at times, X-rated — cam­paign sea­son? How does the coun­try salve its wounds and re­unite in com­mon pur­pose?

Au­di­ence mem­bers here at the Poyn­ter In­sti­tute’s “Com­mu­nity Con­ver­sa­tion,” at which I was in­vited to speak Thurs­day, posed these and other ques­tions. The 150 or so at­ten­dees were a cross-spec­trum mix of stu­dents, pro­fes­sion­als, re­tirees and a few nota­bles — a di­verse group, in other words, with no pro­test­ers, rab­ble-rousers or armed com­bat­ants in search of a revo­lu­tion. The lat­ter may have been oc­cu­pied in nearby Lake­land, Fla., where Don­ald Trump had pro­nounced a global con­spir­acy against him the day be­fore.

Clin­ton sup­port­ers at the Poyn­ter event told me pri­vately that they were afraid to put “Hil­lary” signs in their yards for fear of ret­ri­bu­tion, not from roam­ing van­dals but from once-friendly neigh­bors.

Whether for Trump or Clin­ton, nei­ther side can con­ceive of what com­pels the other. In this du­plex of hor­rors, Clin­ton is a cor­rupt, ly­ing, hyp­o­crit­i­cal ca­reer politi­cian, and Trump is a sleazy, ly­ing, nar­cis­sis­tic au­to­crat and an al­leged sex­ual preda­tor.

Mean­while, the ques­tions posed here did not read­ily present an­swers. What’s needed, I posited half-se­ri­ously, is a su­per­hero. Some­one to rise from the marshes and cut through the fog of our dis­con­tent, some­one who can sum­mon our bet­ter an­gels and help re­store the coun­try’s self-re­spect.

At least for now, one is op­ti­mistic with­out rea­son.

We can know with near cer­tainty that a de­feated Don­ald Trump will un­leash the armies of Mor­dor, com­pris­ing of a fan base that will em­brace his dark con­spir­acy the­ory that the elec­tion was rigged. To their minds, his loss couldn’t pos­si­bly be linked to a very long list of ob­jec­tion­able, as well as dis­hon­est, state­ments he’s made, only one of which is the sextalk video we needn’t view again.

Talk­ing dirty has be­come the new nor­mal, as any­one walk­ing down a city street can con­firm. And the ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion of women isn’t re­motely lim­ited to Trump’s warped view. As dis­gust­ing as Trump’s ver­bal (and pos­si­bly phys­i­cal) as­saults have been — and, yes, hurt­ful, too, as Michelle Obama so pas­sion­ately said this past week — a cer­tain con­tin­gent of his sup­port­ers are re­luc­tantly will­ing to over­look the nas­ti­ness for the sole rea­son that they dis­like Clin­ton more.

Oth­ers aspire to loftier goals, such as pre­vent­ing a lib­eral Supreme Court or re­duc­ing the tax bur­den with an eye to­ward eco­nomic growth. These are le­git­i­mate rea­sons. But Trump’s will­ing­ness to pave the way for a “revo­lu­tion” were Clin­ton to win should be suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence that he isn’t fit for the of­fice.

To what ex­tent are Trump sym­pa­thiz­ers will­ing to ex­press their dis­ap­point­ment? Well, who knows? But many will have seen the in­ter­view with a woman at a Trump rally last week who said she and her com­rades are pre­pared to take their coun­try back, cheer­fully re­mind­ing the in­ter­viewer that “you’re in the South. We’re all Sec­ond Amend­ment pros.”

Is she talk­ing about a well­reg­u­lated mili­tia, per­chance?

This is the mind­set Trump has nur­tured these past many months. These are the peo­ple he will sum­mon at the end. These are the rea­sons the lesse­mo­tion­ally taut are so wor­ried.

More wor­ri­some still is the op­po­site re­sult: What if Trump wins? We can pre­sume Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin will be de­lighted, his pos­si­ble Wik­iLeaks al­liance hav­ing paid off. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, who has called Trump a “wise politi­cian,” will or­der ex­tra chicken wings to cel­e­brate.

As the Ja­panese proverb goes: When the char­ac­ter of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.

Re­mem­ber, too, that Trump has vowed as pres­i­dent to make it eas­ier for peo­ple to sue the me­dia, which, con­sti­tu­tion­ally, he can’t. But as all au­thor­i­tar­ian fig­ures tend to do, Trump has to blame some­one else for his fail­ures. The me­dia are handy bait for the cred­u­lous and mis­in­formed.

Don’t be afraid, but be wor­ried.

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