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Thursday, December 14, 2000

I never really had any doubt that the American institutions were strong enough to withstand the election controversy that ended last night. As petty and money-driven as our politicians can seem, sometimes they can be driven to greatness by the situation.

Al Gore certainly rose to the occasion in his concession speech. It not only served the country well with its tone, but it will also keep him in the top rank of contemporary statesmen. He could have voiced his bitterness over the way he lost, but he tried to lead his country to better days, even as he stepped away from national office.

The most heartening thing I heard from President-elect Bush last night was the phrase "Democratic concerns." Republican politicians know how it grates on their rivals when they use "Democrat" as an adjective. "Democrat concerns." Ugh. It's disrespectful, because the name of the party is the Democratic Party. I thought it was a step toward healing and reconciliation to hear George W. Bush use the right words for a change.

The soothing words from both candidates draw an appropriate end to the ordeal. We've had enough divisiveness for one millennium. The election was so close that it came down to one state's electors, and the vote in that state was so close that it had to be decided in the Supreme Court, which was also split as closely as possible. But we let the process play out, and we accept the conclusion even if we disagree.

But even if we want to forget the rancor of the last five weeks, we don't want to forget that many people were disenfranchised by this process. Every vote counts only if every vote is counted, and only if everyone is allowed to vote. The charges of harassment and intimidation must be investigated and the guilty parties, if any, dealt with harshly.

We now depend on Bush and Gore to follow through on their pledges of cooperation and bipartisanship. We're watching closely, and we're not likely to let them get away with doing anything to deepen the division. I think they know this, and that's the source of whatever hope I have that the next four years will be less turbulent than many believe.

The only way to maintain any kind of consensus is for those in charge to be aware that we'll hold them accountable. It starts now, as we find out what kind of diversity there'll be in Bush's Cabinet and staff. Given his narrow margin and his words of last night, I expect it to "look like America," as Clinton's does. I'd hate to be disappointed right off the bat.

Now, what I really wanted to talk about was my Christmas tree. I got some of my lost holiday spirit back yesterday, and all it took was a bit of deforestation here, and a little disregard for the energy shortage there. Suzanne came by after she got off work and took me out to the forest, where by special permission I was allowed to take my hatchet and hike up the side of a mountain and . . .

Well, actually, we went to Target and I got the first tree I looked at. It was kind of slumped over in the row of five-to-six foot Douglas firs, but she held it up and twirled it around for me, and I couldn't see anything wrong with it or any reason to look any further. She reminded me that I'd need a stand for it (oh, yeah), and after choking on the twenty-dollar super deluxe model, I settled for a slightly less majestic $11.99 dealie.

After a day of rain, everything was wet, and by the time I'd carried the tree across the parking lot to the van, I was soaked and covered with mud - my jeans were a disaster. Instead of bringing the tree directly into the house when we got home, I put it in the garage to let the branches shake off some of the moisture.

I kept walking out to check on it. I used my garden clippers to trim the low branches off the trunk. I wiped the surface off with a towel. After a couple of hours, I couldn't stand it any more. I followed the instructions on the stand and put all the nuts and screws in the places assigned by the diagram, and then I carried the tree in from the garage.

naked tree

I don't know. I think it's kind of neat to have a tree in my house. I wasn't even going to decorate it right away, but Suzanne loaned me a strand of lights, so I put that on.

needs somethinga little better

Then I got the M&M lights out of the closet. They were a gift from my aunt and uncle in Iowa several years ago, but they'd never been out of the box until last night.

well, it's my first time!

What do you think, one more strand of lights around the bottom? And then some ornaments. I have a few of my own and a few of Suzanne's. I'll try them out and let you know how they look. I definitely need something for the top, and a skirt for around the bottom (the purple towel doesn't quite fit). And then I can start wrapping presents. By that time I should have the rest of my spirit back.

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Karen, Thought Experiment, December 12, Gleeful about Christmas

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This little green one here seems to need a home.