The United States is on the eve of completing a process that had its beginnings years and years ago. No, I am not referring to the election of its first female President. I am talking about the process of separating a melting-pot culture with a patchy purplish hue into its stark and clashing colors of red and blue.
In the world of physics, this would be characterized as an entropy-reducing process. The usual analogy for such a process is arranging the balls that are scattered over a pool table so that the striped balls are lined up on one side and the solid balls on the opposite side. That is pretty close to what has taken place in our nation over recent decades.
Such a process just doesn’t happen by itself. That would be breaking the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The Second Law says that it takes energy to decrease the entropy of a system. Your refrigerator gets cold inside because of the energy that runs its compressor. Likewise, the process of separating us into camps of red and blue over the years has taken energy, lots of it. The energy comes from demagogue radio talk show hosts who profit by maintaining and appeasing devoted hard-core audiences. It comes from politicians whose main goal is to stay in power — and who better to enlist for that goal than rabid followers? And it comes from corporations and other rich donors who fuel the process with money, without which none of the above takes place.
So, it’s not Clinton vs. Trump tomorrow, not really. It is those who would solve problems vs. those who would gain from conflict and division. Regardless of the election outcome, the forces that separate us today will continue to do so tomorrow. This is because of the many who have something to gain from our polarization, people with money and energy to pump into our system, to make us cold and hostile to each other. Those people know their way around the Second Law.
The answer, at least my answer, is to remain civil and rational. Try not to pick fights with friends, family or Facebookers. Save your most passionate words for the occasions when you are “speaking to your choir.” Be as critical of the leaders and positions of your own political persuasion as you are of others. Don’t just argue about or advocate for specific candidates, as candidates come and go (mostly go). Instead, voice your expectations of how the political process should work and how the business of running the nation should be conducted. Voice it to your friends. Voice it to your representatives.
Unless we think of ourselves as a purple people again, not red or blue, we can’t expect our politicians to treat us differently. We have work to do tomorrow and many days after to bridge the divide that powerful interests invested so much energy in creating.