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It’s Called ‘Transition’ For a Reason

In a political — and religious — season that calls for patience and reflection, some just can't wait.

by
Elizabeth Scalia

Bio

December 7, 2008 - 12:30 am

In a career low that spoke volumes about the impatient nature of her generation — and hinted, strongly, that she had daydreamed her way through her high school civics classes — New York Times editor Gail Collins recently suggested that President Bush resign his “does-everything-wrong” presidency with all haste, so that Barack Obama may begin his “does-everything-right” presidency immediately and save America from its imperfect self.

It is always difficult to wait, particularly if one has existed in a state of abject longing for some time and sees fulfillment — nay, salvation — on a near horizon. In making her absurd suggestion, Collins wrote:

Dick Cheney, obviously, would have to quit as well as Bush. … Then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would become president until Jan. 20. … She’d defer to her party’s incoming chief executive, and Barack Obama could begin governing.

Faith is a wonderful thing. With faith, one can believe that the Creator of the universe would descend to be born, live, and die of and among his own creatures, dwelling with them and offering himself up for their sins. One can even believe that an ambitious speaker of the House would ascend to the most powerful office on earth and then, within months of becoming the first female to hold such an office, offer it up to another damn man.

In this interregnum season of political transition, the whole nation is in a state of suspense; it watches a right-leaning government prepare to head out to a political wilderness as a left-leaning one processes in from same.

For fervent Democrats and the press — but I am redundant — it is a period of giddy impatience.

For the rest of the nation, this transition and its necessary waiting is a time of reflection. After the noise of an excruciating two-year campaign, those who voted for Obama in November — and especially those who did not — are taking advantage of the relative post-election calm to reflect on all of the fears and hopes that went with the hype. In a quintessentially American manner, they are — whether with joy or resignation — doing the introspective work needed to be opened to the man who will be their president on January 20, 2009. As they wait, they watch bright stars being plucked from the political constellations to serve the new administration and they wonder what is about to occur in their world.

Those who had counted on a President Obama moving herky-jerk away from capitalism and sovereignty are finding some surprisingly centrist cabinet selections at odds with their notion of “hope.” Others fear such selections constitute nothing more than plausible deniability in the face of an inexorable march toward Marxism, and “hope” feels — literally — like all they have.

It seems fitting that the American interregnum now occurs during the season of Advent, the time of waiting with hope, when many Christians turn inward — rejecting the wilderness of their own hearts — to recognize and receive Emmanuel (God with us) and to consider what he means in their lives and in the world. They put on the mind of the ancient Jews and study the texts of the prophets, and ponder who came and who comes.

Not all believers are satisfied that Yeshua bar Yosef, born in Bethlehem of a virgin, is the One for whom they wait. They do not find their expectations of a warrior king met in the low-born child placed in a food bin meant for creatures. For them, the wait continues beyond a season. There is hope, but — as with some of those puzzled Obama voters — also disappointment.

Aware of imperfections they wish to correct or shed altogether, secularists put their trust in man; believers put their trust in maker. This confluence of transitional seasons could urge both to a rare commonality of feeling as they wait, they hope, they wonder and watch.

In the many silly things demonstrated by Gail Collins’ inane column, the most glaring is the perpetually adolescent mindset that sees no point in a peaceful, nationally ennobling transition if it means waiting for the prize, and no value in introspection if it delays ripping open the gifts.

Like Advent, the interregnum is a season of calming preparation and even quiet awe. Let us give thanks for seasons secular and sacred, and make the most of them.

Elizabeth Scalia is a contributing writer to First Things Magazine and the blogger known as The Anchoress.
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