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Minnich: The raw brutality of rhetoric will echo for years after this election | COMMENTARY

As I drove around town looking for signs of armies facing off in the streets at the polls, I found myself wondering how long we’ll be looking over our shoulders over the debris of brutal political rhetoric.

The lights are on, so the pundits and their experts are on the tube with their prognostications: What happens if, what happens next. What’s happening, period, and how did it come to this?

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And the day after Election Day, we still do not know who won the presidency. But we have a chilling look at who lost.

We all did.

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Regardless of who comes out as the declared winner, we will be forced to acknowledge that the country we were all born to is no longer the nation that came into world prominence out of the crucibles of a world depression followed by world war.

My parents heard some of the same rhetoric in the 1930s and into the 1950s that we have been hearing in the past few years. FDR was labeled an aspiring dictator as he took strong hold of the reins to get the nation through desperation and depression. Leftist ideas like Social Security.

Anti-war protesters supported peace with Germany. We looked away at the internment of European Jews and turned to imprison American-born Japanese families in camps in the great wastes of the deserts.

But we always had hope, and essential faith that our form of government would forestall a return to the kind of divisiveness that led to a brutal civil war.

Lincoln died believing he had seen the salvation of the union. America was one nation again. The irony of that struggle was over the definition of whose freedoms are more sacred: Those with wealth or those who were part of the wealth.

The idea of individual liberty runs deep in our national DNA. But freedom is part of a continuum; too much is untenable for unity of a group, and unsustainable to hold together a nation with diverse cultures and values. Too little kills the roots of justice.

Elections were designed for the purpose of keeping any one faction from gathering too much power. The terms they fight to win with our votes have expiration dates for a reason. The rules are set forth in the Constitution for a reason. We want competent and strong leaders, but we don’t want dynasties, wherein a particular family or clan of families or even a single cultural group dominates even a minority of us.

Even the minority has rights that continue after an election’s results are announced. We have always had faith in that. Until now.

Trump is not the first charismatic personality to bask for a while in the spotlight of popular support. America is the world’s leader in celebrity worship and adulation of the rich and beautiful. The shallowness of our values has been eroded by the flow of publicity based on entertainment more than fact — social media, the internet, television reality shows, extravaganzas during sporting events and gaudy parades to show off our love of excess of money, power, and even the temporary nature of physical beauty.

The shallowness cannot hold the roots of substance of character or idealism or sacrifice or discipline for the sake of long-haul achievement. What is rewarded most and celebrated loudest is instant success, immediate gratification, and total immersion of mindless selfishness.

That reality is out of sync with the founding ideals of steadfast attention to detail and dedication to duty to acquire the knowledge, tools, and wisdom on which you build a society of just and productive people who share in the fruits of a common effort and ideals.

Increasingly, the ideal American is no longer identified as the one who puts country and neighbors before self. We cannot even muster up a unified rebuke to those who would grab and abuse the powers of elected office.

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Our system is broken, regardless of the final count of votes. Our character has been tested and found dysfunctional, if not corrupted beyond redemption. We had our chance.

When it was a moment for a rebuke, we came to a virtual tie vote.

Dean Minnich has been a journalist, author, county commissioner and Vietnam veteran. His email address is dminnichwestm@gmail.com.

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