Stafford: ‘OK, bad boy, bring it on’

There is that moment when you know it’s inevitable.

You’re going to be sick to your stomach, and nothing can prevent it.

It’s only a matter of time.

And you decide you’d just as soon get it over with.

When that moment of clarity arrives for me — particularly if I’m in a fevered state — I apparently imagine that I can communicate with whatever virus or bug that’s making me ill.

Because about that time, I usually lean over the porcelain and, as though whispering into the ear of my enemy, defiantly mutter something like: “OK, bad boy, bring it on.”

All of this is my way of saying: I don’t want to wait until Nov. 8.

I want to vote tomorrow.

I want to purge myself and get it over with.

For the sake of the future well-being of all of us in this perpetual swing state, I want the ballot I cast tomorrow to include an initiative that legalizes the use of medical marijuana during presidential election years.

Because, if the past few elections are any indicator, between now and Nov. 8, we’re all likely to be living in an increasingly fevered state.

The symptoms appeared long before one of the national conventions set up shop in the House of LeBron. It came when political commercials started buzzing like mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus.

If I’ve gotten the gist of the competing commercials, either Rob Portman is singularly responsible for the globalization of trade and the loss of every Ohio factory job to China, or Ted Strickland is solely responsible for the calamity that descended after the housing market collapsed and the nation was nearly brought to its knees.

Both arguments are, of course, equally fair, which is to say they’re not.

What’s more, they share a time-honored strategy we Ohio voters have become accustomed to as swing-staters.

Hirelings of the people whose identities are obscured in small type at the bottom of the screen identify a series of unrelated facts to tie together.

The process is much the same as the ancients used when they looked up into the sky and imagined a relationship between stars that, though actually in vastly different parts of the universe, appear to be related with one another, because of the narrow view from earth.

Modern day hirelings then connect the dots to create constellations of lies. Clearly, the facts are there. But the lines that connect them are just that – made-up lines.

Assuming things continue like this, in a few years, I’ll be able to take my grandson out into the back yard on a dark Ohio summer night, angle the political telescope to the right part of the sky and have him identify the constellations.

“Grandpa, I see the Big Fibber, but where’s the Little Fibber?”

“There is no Little Fibber, Atticus.”

OK, time out.

Rant over.

Anger purged.

Let’s talk.

In the midst of the heart-rending social and political chaos of recent weeks, I have found a couple of sources of hope. One has been what I’ve heard on news reports from people who have been witnesses at the various scenes of carnage and their reactions to it.

One, they tend not to be credible witnesses, not spin doctors trying to immediately make some political point of the suffering they’ve witnessed or danger they’ve been in the midst of.

An African-American father and son interviewed after the killings of the police officers in Dallas were as unapologetic about being at the rally as they were effusive in praise of the police who herded them to safety.

As apparent was their genuine concern and worry over one another when they had been separated for a time – the kind of worry that showed on their faces and, for a moment, put me in their places.

Another source of hope for me has been conversations with friends – face to face, not Facebook to Facebook.

I don’t think the conversations have been good just because we’re of like-mind, either. In fact, in one discussion, the opposite was true. It was possible, though, because we felt connected in a way that allowed us to listen rather than argue with one another.

That’s to say, instead of listening to our own voices formulating a counter-argument in our heads, we were able to listen to one another. We had enough faith and patience in one another to hear what was being said during our discussion. We knew we’d be friends after the talk just as we were before.

There’s one person I’m looking forward to talking to I trust enough to help me address nagging doubts I’m almost ashamed to voice.

There is no simple formula here.

We are often so divided in our living situations and circles of acquaintance that friendships with others of different minds and backgrounds seem increasingly rare.

Still, my strategy for the coming months – and maybe beyond that – is to foster my own personal coalitions of sanity, friendship and connection in the face of a world that seems, for the moment, to prefer the opposites.

I’m hoping that will allow me to listen to people who are angry and not respond in anger – and, in the long run, to find beneath that anger some common ground.

But election season is not a season which that often happens.

So, for the first time, I may cast my ballot early, while whispering, “OK, bad boy, bring it on.”

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