The Good News Amidst the Current Chaos

The order of the day is anxiety-bordering-on-fear. The stock market and LIBOR zig, zag, and sag. Banks fail. Layoffs multiply. Members of the House and Senate wrangle, argue, and dither, even as the president (who’s he? Oh, right. That guy from — Texas, is it?) warns of doom (and no one listens to him because, um, what’s his name again?)

Good news. There’s an upside to this nightmare. In fact, there are two.

First, those lawmakers in Washington. You know: all those old white guys in suits and ties who seem to spend all their time jabbing fingers at each other but otherwise not getting much done? They ARE doing something. They’re doing the most important “something” of all: They’re operating the complicated, often ugly, and always machinery of a democratic republic.

That’s right: This is what a free society looks like when the mechanism is running full tilt. We the people elect representatives and dispatch them to spend their days making the laws and rules and regulations so that the rest of us can get on with our lives waiting tables, driving trucks, writing books, and making beer.

Are our constitutional and legislative mechanisms inefficient, messy, and slow? Definitely. Is the process perfect? Hell, no. Is it maddening? Yes.

Is there a speedier, more efficient, more streamlined alternative? Yes. It’s called “dictatorship.” Dictators move fast because, ya know, they don’t have to consult anyone. They do they want regardless of what the citizens want.

Me? I don’t want to live in a dictatorship. So every time I hear another “breaking news” update about the often stalled, and even more often ridiculous, closed-door talks that don’t seem to be going anywhere, I ponder the alternative. And then I send a silent thanks to the people who are devoting their lives to making this democratic republic work, clunky though the machinery may be.

Okay, so what’s the second silver lining? The economy may teeter on the brink, but the presidential campaign continues.

That’s right: On November 4, we Americans will vote. We’ll engage in the first step toward a peaceful — and legal — transfer of power. And then round about noon on January 20, 2009, we’ll watch the second step unfold: The person we elected will take the oath of office and become our new president.

So what? you say. Ho hum. Big deal.

It is a big deal. It’s the biggest deal we Americans have (aside from the Constitution). Pick up a newspaper and read about the millions of other human beings experience transfers of power: Through bloodshed, intimidation, riots and shooting — and with no elections at all.

So if your anxiety levels are soaring; if the market tanks on Monday; if Wachovia crashes on Tuesday — take a minute to rejoice in our fundamentals. They’re what make us who we are. And they’ll get us through this crisis.

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