The first junco of the season arrived at the feeder yesterday, returning from its summer visit to the north country to stay with us until spring comes again. The grandchildren, here for the weekend, came into the house decorated with what stuck to their clothes when they buried themselves in a pile of rust- and orange-colored oak leaves. I shooed them outside to shake. This morning, a single tall aspen glowed bright as a torch in the first rays of sun against a backdrop of drab, bare trees.
All these scenes remind me that our autumn is drifting with the falling leaves toward another winter. And the election coming up next week reminds me it will probably be a winter of discontent for about half the people in the state, based on polls and previous elections showing our deep political division.
This is not the “winter of our discontent” of the John Steinbeck novel, nor the line from the opening of Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” although the literary themes of corruption and power seeking have been present in the campaign rhetoric, which is its own brand of tragedy.
No, our potential for discontent lies in the stark choices voters have in determining what will be good governance for the future of Wisconsin. Nearly half of us will be disappointed our vision is not ascendant. And the discontent will be especially great for those of a certain age who are beginning to wonder if they will live to see old Wisconsin that they knew. I, for one, am still smarting at the way then-Gov. Jim Doyle fumbled the opportunity to rescue the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources from politicization. But I digress.
Discontent, however, will likely be more uniform than our reaction to election results would suggest.
In part, it’s because the spin factories — the interest groups, the slanted 24-7 talking heads, the political posers — will immediately begin to shape public opinion in advance of the 2016 elections. Lost in the chatter and finger pointing will be the important issues that most of us of all political stripes really care about, including health care costs, roads, bridges, privacy, public safety from all manner of environmental threats, including climate change and the threat of contagion. And the list goes on.
Our discontent will be with the unwillingness of elected representatives to compromise on the important issues of the day. And it will continue after this election and more to come until we are shown that our democracy can function to meet the needs of the people.
Meanwhile, we all look forward to another season that has its own beauty and excitement, then another gentle spring, another splendid summer and then, we hope, another autumn as glorious as the one we now bid a sad farewell.
I, for one, have resolved to embrace my discontent, regardless of the election’s outcome, and try at the same time to “keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side,” as the old tune goes, in the belief that at some point our state and country will come together, somewhere in the middle of our differences, to ensure that our future in Wisconsin and the nation will be a bright one.
I just hope to be around when it happens.