There is a family legend about my childhood attempts to contribute to grown up conversations. The paternal response to my age-appropriate but nonetheless meager efforts was often “wrong again, Haven.”
By today’s standards that would not be considered good parenting, but they took place at a time when parent was a noun not a verb. Today’s moms are appalled at the story but I have always thought there were some toughening lessons in those words.
The memory came back to me as I contemplated the last 600 days of campaigning, which have been, for me, pretty much a continuous “wrong again, Haven.”
What went wrong?
Likely, I don’t yet know, but my first thought is too much reading. How can that be? Isn’t knowing more better than knowing less? Yes, but it also draws me to the consensus view. When the consensus is emphatically wrong, as it was in this election, it looks like an index fund in a down market. Everyone is tied for last.
Today, I am trying something new. Though my inbox is full of unread emails, political newsletters and links to websites, I am reading none of them until this is published.
In November 1963, I had a history teacher who faced the challenge, at short notice, of teaching a boarding school class about Lyndon Johnson. The little WASPs could not imagine such a man.
My teacher was in the library all night looking at political stories on microfiche readers. If he were doing the same today, he might well be looking at psychology texts. That is where I would go for guidance. I would read about recoveries and coping strategies because the demons are well known.
Revenge will be tempting and an early signal will be Donald Trump’s success in resisting it. When the first crowd shouts, “lock her up,” I hope he stops them.
We don’t jail political opponents in this country but a quiet conversation – preferably with no electronic record – suggesting the salutary benefits of a withdrawal from public life might not be harmful.
The Washington insiders will now go into full ring-kissing mode in an effort to keep their hands on the steering wheel. The easy but wrong answer is to treat all of them alike by rejecting their experience and expertise. He will have to choose wisely to see that does not drain the parts of the swamp he will need for the next four years.
The other mistake will be to miss a historic opportunity to drain as much as possible. Few will agree with every decision.
All of us confuse what we think with what we hope and that is a frequent source of “wrong again, Haven” thinking for me, but Donald Trump’s 3:15 AM speech was a gracious start.
Though I did not vote for him, I wish him well.