Several years ago, a country song by Rodney Crowell and Vince Gill wryly mused that, "it's hard to kiss the lips at night that chewed your ass out all day long." Crude, but colorfully accurate.
In the weeks since the election, as anxiety rises about the "fiscal cliff" our cultural road is approaching that twanging chorus has been playing through my head. What is needed in these difficult, perhaps even ominous days is diplomacy -- the capacity to look around one's own Congressional caucus and across the aisle and recognize a trustworthy and equally sincere colleague operating with the best interests of the nation at heart. What's needed, if you will pardon the questionable metaphor, is a little political romance. But in the months leading up to the General Election, many things were said. Harsh words were spoken. Character was impugned, motives questioned, intelligence castigated, and morality, with dark insinuation, tainted. And that was all on TV. When I visited several candidate websites the pus was even more rancid. Knuckles -- and teeth -- were bared in the ugliest tones imaginable.
This year more women than ever were elected to Congress. The Senate will seat at least 20 women, while the ranks of women in the House of Representatives will swell at least to 77, besting the old benchmark of 73. I note, however, that there is as yet no updated, gender-inclusive word to replace the old "statesman" -- as in "one who practices the art of statesmanship." There is, of course, "statecraft" which refers to the work itself, but so far no fresh word for those noble souls who rise above partisan gaming and actually practice it. The linguistic omission is telling; signaling, perhaps, an archaism more quaint than practicable; a species too extinct to resurrect.
I hope not. Our common life is too precious, the work to be done in the public square too important for the collective good to allow the prevailing "Big Time Wrestling" mentality to endure. There is some serious kissing that needs to be done as the evening of this year approaches. But if anyone is ever going to have the fortitude to pucker up, the daytime chewing is going to have to change.
Just a thought.