Revisiting the Election Year of Grown-Up Mean Children

When I was in fifth grade, I suffered a humiliating episode of isolation. Something had happened between the two most popular girls in the class causing them to hate each other with a previously unparalleled venom.

Each girl began to draw allies to her side and against the other girl. Soon two distinct groups formed with all the girls in one group hating all the girls in the other group and vice versa.

Somehow, I managed to miss the drama of how it had all unfolded.  Maybe I had been sick at home or just not paying attention on the playground.  I wasn’t part of either group. But sadly, not for lack of trying.

Once the groups coalesced, I tried to join first one, then another.  Neither group would have me.  It was nice that nobody hated me enough to form a club of Nancy Haters, Inc. But I was sad that I couldn’t get into one of the clubs.  I didn’t even care which one.  I just wanted to fit in too.

Then the tension between the two groups mounted.  One day, the sniping became yelling that flashed into a fist-fight between the main contenders. I can still conjure the image of two girls really trying to hurt each other.

The situation finally reached the radar screen of adults.

That afternoon, every girl in the class took her turn in the office.  At last, I walked the hallway to give my accounting. Two women were present.  One was our teacher, a tough, sometimes temperamental classroom veteran whom it was wise not to rile.  The other was the school secretary, just about the sweetest lady ever.

Our class had managed to rile one and horrify the other.

Also present was a classmate. I don’t remember which one.

My teacher asked me which club I had joined. I manufactured a fantasy of the high road. I looked my classmate in the eye and said, “I found out what the clubs were about and decided I didn’t want to be part of either one.”

The other girl’s eyes locked with mine.  She knew I had her.  She could get me in trouble by telling the truth. But then she and all the other girls would be in even bigger trouble.

The adults bought it. My fake halo glowed.

Today, the two group leaders are professional women. The skills they cultivated as they built alliances with other schoolgirls served them well later on. They are the last ones you’d pick to have been in a fifth-grade fist fight. They contribute to their community. In short, they grew up.

This year’s election has all of the elements leading to a playground fist fight. In fact, violence has been a rude guest of equal opportunism–appearing on behalf of multiple candidates.

Sniping, yelling, and assault–on social media and in person–are the order of the day. What can we do? What will we do when we have to become one nation again come the Wednesday after the election?

From Peggy Noonan: “Someone is going to win Tuesday and then, if trendlines that have proved reliable in the past continue, the sun will come up on Wednesday. (We claim this with a 3% margin of error.) We’ll go forward. We’re in a hard time and we’ll get through it. The country isn’t just split but unhappy with its choices and pessimistic as to its political future. . . . We’ll have to spend the next few years trying to get things in order and figure out how to create a better political reality.”

Wednesday will come. And half of us, perhaps even more than that, will believe the worst has happened. Then, we will have to decide whether we are fist fighting fifth-graders vying for playground dominance or grown-ups contributing to a better political reality.

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Revised from 11/7/16

28 Replies to “Revisiting the Election Year of Grown-Up Mean Children”

  1. Great analogy. Come Wednesday morning, God will still be on the throne and He still wins n the end. I remind myself of this truth often when the rival groups start fighting.

  2. Nancy, a playground fist-fight does remind us of the banter and antics of the current election politics. Almost as if we are still waiting for these people to grow up and wonder what is wrong with adult-ing. 🙂 This is a great analogy and story.

    I liked how the quote said the sun will come up Wednesday after the election. That’s true. And what’s also true is that the Son will be lifted up by those of us who have already chosen the side of good and love and grace.


  3. Whew! The politics of America has been crazy. I cannot keep up with all of the madness but I’m sure Wednesday will be more of the same uproar…unfortunately.

  4. Great story! The human instinct to be part of a tribe is strong. Nothing wrong with that in itself. The problem is when the tribe you belong to is at war with another tribe. This seems to be the pattern more than ever in politics. Republicans and Democrats frequently see each other as the enemy of all that is good and decent.

    1. That’s very sad. It used to not be so. If we could try to see good intentions of the other, we might get somewhere. But we’d have to build trust to do that. Thanks, Christopher, and God bless!

  5. Nancy,

    I am reading this on the night after that long, long day of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the drama of questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Cavenaugh. But come Friday, not Tuesday, we may be in for more drama and more partisanship, name calling and hostility. I remember in-groups and being an outsider, but I don’t recall big fights between the different groups. It appeared to be civil at that time. Who knows what may have been going on privately that I did not know about.

    1. Thank you, Erica. I chose to repost this entry today because of the viciousness of the hearings. We don’t know what happens behind the closed doors of the smoke-filled rooms. But civility is very much a lost art today. God bless!

  6. Thank you for posting this, Nancy. I stay away from politics online. I want to be a bridge not a castle. As a Christian in a bitter election season, I want to see unity. I’m not sure how we will, but that’s my prayer.
    Keep to the high road like you are Nancy. Let’s bring the hope of Jesus.

  7. I hate politics. I recognize we must all do our part, vote, and try to make the best choices. But it’s gotten so ugly! So yeah… not feeling “the love” of it at the moment. Hopefully, like what you said, we’ll wake up to a new say. Bless you, Lisa Q

  8. What a superb post! We’ve all watched in horror as the political speech has grown more vitriolic, as sides have become more polarized, and as fists have been raised and blows struck. It truly has been like a fifth grade fist fight, complete with childish actions and speech. I’m hoping and praying that our nation can grow up and assume more civilized discourse and polite public behavior. But as a man speaks within his heart, so he is. That being the case, may the Lord change hearts!

  9. Oh Nancy, I can so relate to your childhood story. What a vivid memory. And so relevent! Honestly, I’m thankful for Wednesdays, because they remind us that life goes on. The world won’t end. Regaurdless of the outcome, Jesus is still Lord and we will still just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Even the people who are hurting. Even the people who feel like they “won the day.” We will all put one foot in front of the other and carry on. And before we know it, it will be Thursday, and then Friday, and Wednesday will be but a memory.

  10. Wonderful post, Nancy. Love the analogy! Our nation is uncertain and it presents us with strife and fills the air with contempt. But will we engage like 5th graders or rise above like people of God? Are we a people who look to Jesus and His will regardless of the chaos in this world. In the end, He wins. I think our current state of America should move us to our knees more than anything else. Only God can overcome the craziness amongst us. Thank you for your post. Insightful!

  11. Nancy – I love how you ended it. Wednesday will come; life moves on. I know I am get easily worked up with what I’m trying to accomplish and “make happen”, and then when it’s all over I look back and wonder why in the world I hated the process. Thank you for the timely reminder. ~ Johanna

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