There are five stages of grief that were first proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying.” As a lifelong liberal, I have been going through them since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980.
Stage 1: Denial — When Reagan was elected, it seemed to me that this was just a “throw the bums out” reaction to the incredible inflation and gasoline shortages we were experiencing at the time. It didn’t help that Jimmy Carter was perceived as weak on Iran and that Nightline reminded us every night for 444 days that 52 American diplomats and citizens were being held hostage. It turned out that Reagan and the Republicans were like the house guest who never leaves. They occupied the house on Pennsylvania Avenue for 12 years. And then with only a break for a conservative Democrat who gave us “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the Defense of Marriage Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the repeal of Glass Steagel, we had another 8 years of so-called “compassionate conservativism.”
Stage 2: Anger — By the time George Bush was “elected” in 2000, my denial was over. Now I was angry. I was angry first that an election had been stolen and then that the thief was hell-bent on starting a war in Iraq. For the first time since the 1960s, I marched in the streets and took part in vigils against the war. The anti-war efforts were completely ignored by the Bush administration. The anger dissipated after a few years.
Stage 3: Bargaining — By 2004, a helplessness feeling had set in. What could we have done better to elect John Kerry? Clearly our message had not gotten out. Were we doomed to have a President who was a joke to the rest of the world? Perhaps we could compromise some principles in order to elect someone who was not a liberal but was at least a moderate. The bargain we struck got us Barack Obama who immediately took compromise to a new level by adopting the Republican healthcare plan.
Stage 4: Depression — As I watched a Democrat expand the use of drones, wiretaps and deportations to unprecedented levels, depression sank in. This was “our guy” doing this. What is it going to be like when the next inevitable Republican takes over?
Stage 5: Acceptance — Just this year, as I turned 61, I came to the realization that I am never going see the kind of nation I thought I’d see when I first became socially conscious 45 years ago when my age digits were reversed. I also will never get to travel to the Moon or own a flying car. In the decade or so that I have left before senility sets in I will have to accept that I live in an imperfect world. Good ideas don’t always beat bad ideas. Altruism doesn’t always trump greed. I have officially entered the cynical sixties.
But just to be sure I don’t get too cynical, I have also this year been given a wonderful grandson in whom I can place all my youthful hopes and dreams for America. I may never get to see a kinder and gentler America where guns and wars are rare and where equality pervades every segment of society. But Bryce may see it. One can only hope.