Although most reports have claimed that Hillary Clinton has had a three-in-a-row slam dunk win of the presidential election debates, there is a definite sense now that, as Churchill said in his famous speech of 1942, "This is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end, but it is perhaps the end of the beginning."
These debates and the final election result may be the end of a long and painful two year campaign for the candidates and the electorate, but even as it draws to a close, it is clear to see that America stands at a precipice, and this is just the end of the beginning of something no one in this campaign could have ever projected might happen. A Pandora's Box of anger and vitriol has unleashed divisions that may never recede. Hillary Clinton herself has said she never wanted to win like this. What, in fact, this is now the beginning of, is entirely up to the choices of the American people.
Whilst this campaign has illuminated that the voice of the people wants to be heard, and with endless revelations and accusations of corruption and wrongdoing on both sides of the campaign, the fact is that the voice of the people can still be heard loud and clear at least every day on the street and in fact, in every life. And this is where the choice lies. For the people of the United States, what will this election be the beginning of?
After November 8th will there be war or peace? Or will we see the decline and fall, the wrenching apart, of a great nation? Because that is what the Republican candidate has implied if he fails to win: "Trump's unprecedented threat to sow chaos rather than concede was chilling". Refusing to commit to accepting the results of the election and thus support a traditional, peaceful transition of power, he seems hell-bent on stirring up violence amongst an already over-incensed electorate and enraged supporters who have already called for blood on the streets and a revolution "with pitchforks".
Which suggests it's urgent, and time, to put down the pitchforks and pick up a copy of William Golding's beautifully written, ever relevant and very instructive literary masterpiece: Lord of the Flies.
An innocent group of young boys stranded on a remote island make a plan to cooperate for their mutual benefit and survival. The island is idyllic, and free of adult rules and supervision, a new beginning, with all options on the table to create what they will. They have a choice.
It has themes of group work vs individuality, rational vs emotional responses, moral vs immoral choices at play. Ring a bell? And due to divisiveness, selfishness, personal ambitions and desires, lust for power, mistrust and giving over to fear, their opportunity to create a heaven or a hell, and their numerous choices, lead to the latter. They destroy each other, the island and themselves. The few survivors in the end look back at the burning island ( our burning planet?) , the total destruction of everything they had hoped for, and wonder how it happened.
How did it happen? It happened step by step. As in this campaign, step by step, day after day, the bar for useful democratic, political discourse and of common human decency has been progressively lowered.
They say the trajectory of a man/woman's life is composed of a million little choices. And so it is with a nation. The murdered MP Jo Cox (yes, she was murdered on the streets of England pre-Brexit) was known for saying: "There is more which unites us than divides us". She knew those divisions will always be with us: political, ideological, social, economic, cultural, religious, racial, national. By these definitions, we are different. But whether we choose to up the ante in fighting over these and destroy each other, or respect those differences and work together, for mutual benefit and survival, is entirely up to each of us. The hope of America, and of organizations like the United Nations, in view of all failings, is still, "E Pluribus Unum": Out of Many, One. Lincoln said, though this today may sound like a voice in the wilderness: "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies."
The Dalai Lama has called for the 21st century to be the century of dialogue. Let's hope that continued dialogue, peaceful demonstration, a seeking of solutions, rationality, a desire for healing, and a huge dose of patience and goodwill survive this election.
On November 8th and thereafter, America chooses. Make it a good choice.