In her report on the divisiveness of the Presidential election [Nov. 1], Nancy Gibbs contemplated whether it will be possible to bring Americans together after the vote. It is not only possible but also probable. Although those in our nation's capital and in the media are totally consumed by politics, most Americans view politics as just one element of their everyday lives. We are too busy to be overcome by the aftermath of elections. We share key values. Ultimately, we all want to be able to live decent lives in peace and security. The presidential election almost seems to have taken on the quality of the World Series or the Super Bowl. We each have a favorite, but after the winner has been determined, we can go back to our regular lives.
Charles K. Stein
I am the sole Democrat where I work. All of us are devoutly Christian and love one another. As Oregonians we were able to cast our mail-in ballots before Election Day, and since then my friends and I have quietly sought to heal the wounds inflicted by this heated campaign. We've asked one another probing questions and listened with respect and good humor to the answers. I try to avoid eye rolling, although I cannot say it has never happened. And we have kept in mind that our goals and values are the same; we just have different ideas about how to get there.
Anyone who has studied the American Civil War or lived through the Cold War and Vietnam knows there were more polarized election seasons, when the stakes were surely higher than they are now. The casualty levels of the war on terrorism, regrettable as they are, have not approached those of other conflicts. We got through them. This has been a politically contentious time, but were we to face another crisis on the scale of Pearl Harbor or 9/11, Americans would get over it, whoever might be in office. Our domestic political campaign was a war of words. If we exaggerate its importance, as your cover does, we increase the danger that a more destructive divisiveness will rise among us.
Joseph R. Stains
Homer City, U.S.
As someone who mostly votes Republican, I want to think that only one side takes part in voting shenanigans. But as an intelligent American citizen, I know that the "funny stuff" is probably pretty evenly divided. I believe people should vote because they've educated themselves on the issues and are ready to make an informed choice, not because election-year propaganda has told them what to do. But unfortunately, being informed isn't a prerequisite. Any law-abiding citizen can fill out a ballot.
Green Bay, U.S.
Your article invited the thought that no matter who won the election, half the country would need a morning-after pill to cope with the results. If we cannot agree on, for example, what counts as unjustifiable homicide (as we cannot in the case of abortion), then perhaps we constitute a polity in name only and should be free to secede from the Union. Or is that our democracy's only forbidden desire?
New York City
After an election, it isn't always easy to forgive, forget and move on. And although it's disheartening to believe that the leader of your country is a wrongheaded and dangerous person, it's far worse to realize he was eagerly chosen by a self-righteous and gloating majority. Some of us feel deep in our heart that America isn't really the place for us, that perhaps we belong somewhere else, in a country where good people live. There are parts of the U.S. where I now know I could not live, not because of the red or blue color on the electoral map but because of the narrowness of the residents' minds and the darkness of their hearts. Might not we be better off as two separate nations than as one in which half of us are forced to accept the will of the other half?
Your story on the divided state of the U.S. was inspired and posed a warning that all should heed. Disagreements are destroying the U.S. from within. Politics has become a major contributor to the breakdown of trust, without which government and civil society cannot function. And we are setting a ghastly example for the world. The presidential campaign was not a shining model of democracy but a no-holds-barred push to win at any cost—a sort of politics of mutually assured destruction. We should delay any future elections until the Democrats and Republicans agree to sign a peace treaty and re-establish the integrity of our nation.
why do we continue to use the electoral College when the popular vote should count, now more than ever? There should be just one vote, allowing our citizens to speak once and for all. Maybe then the money spent and the promises made by the candidates would be directed more at the real issues that affect voters.
Most Americans have absolutely no clue as to the importance of the Electoral College. It is not the easiest thing to understand, but it is crucial: it allows all areas of the country to be represented. Every person's vote should count, but we are not a pure democracy, we are a republic, and as such we vote for people to represent us. The Electoral College was set up to give the small states a voice and has done a marvelous job of achieving its purpose. If the Electoral College were abolished, would presidential candidates ever visit the less populous states? Probably not. The Electoral College may need some reform, but it should not be eliminated.
Thanks for addressing a fundamental reality head on. The term Uncivil War nails it. I am afraid of the aftermath of the election. I'm afraid for the future of this country. We must find a sane way through this trial and focus on those fulfilling little moments in life that quietly trump our sometimes desperate fears.
San Bernardino, U.S.
I became a U.S. citizen in 1968, and I believe that voting is the most important part of citizenship. I am amazed that the system was so disorganized—flawed voter lists, machines that have no verifiable paper trail and different election rules in different states. Compared with many other countries, the U.S. is still in the Stone Age. We need to develop national election standards. Our votes can push national and local issues in widely disparate directions. But if you did not vote, you have no right to complain.
Eagle River, U.S.
The people of the U.S.—and that includes the media—need to rally behind our President and give him our full support. We must remain a nation united to defeat our enemies. They would like nothing better than to see the U.S. implode. We don't need the mainstream media to foment chaos and divisiveness. Enough already! We need the media to help unite us. United we stand; divided we fall.
Harriet E. Rice
Registration Efforts for All
Your article "Translating Faith Into Spanish" [Oct. 25] contained an important error about Focus on the Family's Hispanic voter-registration initiative. You said our group is taking the wedge issues of abortion, same-sex marriage and stem-cell research and emphasizing them with Hispanic voters in an attempt "to try to sway the Hispanic vote for George Bush." As a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization under the Internal Revenue Code, our voter-registration efforts for both Hispanic and general audiences are nonpartisan. We cannot and do not advocate for or against one candidate or party.
Focus on the Family
Colorado Springs, U.S.
A Time for Determination
After the flurry of car bombings, hostage takings and beheadings in Iraq [Oct. 25], I find it disturbing when the media depict these killers as "insurgents" or "resistance fighters." A fuss is made over every foreign-civilian casualty in the green zone, the headquarters of the U.S. administration in Baghdad, while the Iraqi-civilian casualties of terrorist acts get scant coverage. And how is the U.S. policy of winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis going to work in a terrorist haven like Fallujah, where many of the citizens are collaborating with the extremists? Any peaceful means of conflict settlement by Americans is viewed by these brutes as weakness and emboldens them to commit even more horrible acts. If the pro-democracy forces and the West want to avoid a second Vietnam in Iraq, they need to use determination and tactics like massive aerial bombings of terrorist havens. If the terrorists are faced with the prospect of total extermination, they at least might think twice about their actions.
I am thankful to President Bush because he had the courage to make the decision to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq. Saddam Hussein was a problem not only for Iraq but for other countries as well. The American and British invasion has broken the rule of this dictator. The situation in Iraq is very difficult and dangerous, but the coalition must remain until there is no further threat from the insurgents.
Living the Enhanced Life
Re your special report "Visions of Tomorrow" [Oct. 25]: No single nation is self-sufficient in today's global society; we need one another's food, inventions, technology, banking, credit, tourism, music and fashion. International exchange students help us participate more fully in a world that is becoming increasingly linked by communication, transportation and trade. We can no longer be blinded by prejudice and narrow-mindedness. We can change the world by overcoming the barriers among people. Then we can leave the 21st century knowing that we have broken the pattern of divisiveness.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Lucky Pierre: A Real Pro
Presidential press secretary Pierre Salinger [MILESTONES, Nov. 1] became acquainted with John F. Kennedy while working with Bobby Kennedy on a Senate subcommittee in the late 1950s. TIME described Salinger's role in the Kennedy Administration in an Oct. 16, 1964, report:
"J.F.K. was then running for the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination, and Salinger joined the team as chief press aide ... Salinger came to love his job and to worship Jack Kennedy. After Kennedy was elected, he named Salinger as his press secretary, and Pierre soon became an institution of his own. There was Pierre aboard the Honey Fitz in slacks of shocking pink; Pierre in blue and yellow shorts, chugging over the decorous grass tennis courts of Newport; Pierre flailing away on the Hyannis golf course while Kennedy watched in fond amusement ... Sometimes White House newsmen got annoyed with Pierre's ways, thought he was considerably less than fastidious with facts. But by and large they came to admire him as a real pro, one who was calm, cool and correct in moments of real emergency, such as the Cuba missile crisis. When Jack Kennedy died, part of Pierre died with him. Certainly the White House never again seemed the same to Salinger. Lyndon Johnson laughed at Pierre, not with him."
Arms and the Man
As we noted in our MILESTONE on foreign-affairs and arms-control specialist Paul Nitze [Nov. 1], he was the consummate Washington insider who made his mark in a number of official positions. As nuclear arms-reduction negotiator, he was covered by TIME correspondent Strobe Talbott, who wrote a profile of Nitze when Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the historic arms accord reducing their countries' arsenals of nuclear weapons [Dec. 21, 1987]:
"He was a canny and successful Wall Street investment banker while still in his 20s, a yuppie before his time. But in 1937, at the age of 30, Paul Nitze experienced a Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus conversion. He took a leave from the firm of Dillon, Read & Co. to tour his family's ancestral homeland, Germany. Deeply disturbed by what he saw of Adolf Hitler's rule, he returned home—but not to the world of high finance and private wealth. Instead, he went back to his alma mater, Harvard, to study history, sociology and philosophy: 'There were big issues, big questions, big problems in the world. I wanted to come to terms with them. I couldn't do that making money' ... He is one of the last of a breed of patrician policymakers who, immediately after World War II, helped rebuild Western Europe with the Marshall Plan and defend it by establishing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization."