It's now time for unity, not divisionSteve Hammer

God bless the United States of America. I love this land with all my heart and even though my man lost the election, I am still proud to be an American.

And may God bless President Bush and Vice President Cheney over the next four years. They weren't my choice, but they're what we have. May they guide our nation with strength and wisdom. But despite all this, the music of the Beatles, James Brown and the Stones sounds just as good now as it did two weeks ago.

The election results were devastating to me and a lot of the people I know. Everywhere I went Wednesday through Sunday, people were somber. Grieving, even. The campaign was over and people were suffering from a hangover, and not just the alcoholic kind.

It was a period of national mourning for the 48 percent of us who voted for the losing side, and a time for dancing in the end zone and spiking the ball for the others.

During the campaign, I fought as hard as I could and used the harshest terms possible to illustrate the differences between my candidate and the incumbent.

And I was certain, dead certain, that my guy was going to win. On Election Day, I took the afternoon off. On my way home, I stopped at my favorite store to buy some soft drinks and snacks for the night. I also picked up two small American flags that were on sale.

The woman in front of me is 50ish and wealthy-looking. When I get to the counter, she's talking to the clerk. This dude is the most talkative clerk I have ever encountered at a store. No matter how long the line, he'll talk endlessly with a regular customer like her or me.

She asks him if he's voted yet and he says yes.

"I voted MY GOOD CHRISTIAN VALUES," she says.

I chime in, "Yes ma'am, I did, too."

"My husband is A VETERAN," she says.

"God bless him," I say. "My buddy is getting ready to go to Iraq." Which is true.

"I just don't see how anybody could call themselves a Christian and vote for John Kerry," she says.

I spoke up again. "Yeah, I'm buying all these videotapes and these flags because I'm going to have a BIG VICTORY PARTY at my house," I lie. "We're gonna have some drinks, eat some chips. We're gonna have American flags everywhere and celebrate our victory. Christian values are going to win tonight, praise Jesus!"

At this point, she looks at me like I'm her grandson. "That's so wonderful. So you think we're gonna win? Or just win Indiana?"

"No, we're gonna lose Indiana," I say, "but the rest of the country will go for John Kerry and John Edwards, luckily."

She looks at me like I spit on her. "So you're, uh, for - "

"Ma'am," I say, "I just hope after tomorrow that we can all be Americans again and get behind the new president. We are at war." At this time, remember, I was sure Kerry was going to win.

"I don't think I could do that," she mumbled, took her shit and left. I'm glad she didn't slash my tires. The hippies standing in line behind me laughed.

Turns out the laugh was on me.

But something she said disturbed me.

On the prospect of supporting America after a Kerry win, her gut reaction was "I don't think I could do that."

On Wednesday, I was thinking and saying the same thing about Bush winning it. I looked at my e-mail at work; it was almost all hateful, mean and spiteful. The Bushies wanted to rub it in my face, and the president himself seemed eager to taunt Democrats at his press conference on Thursday.

But despite all this, the music of the Beatles, James Brown and the Stones sounds just as good now as it did two weeks ago. Pretty girls are still pretty. I'm confident Bush won't outlaw Crown Royal or 2Pac records. I'm pretty sure John Kerry isn't going to become a political prisoner, just yet.

A Republican wrote me, "I too thought the world was over when Clinton was elected the second time. I survived." Yup.

But I liked this suggestion best.

"Now is not the time for gloating or despair from either side. Now is the time to practice the lessons of good-sportsmanship that we all supposedly learned in little league baseball and pee-wee league football (for those of us who didn't learn the sports themselves). Many angry hateful things were said in the heat of the battle. Now is the time to relax and realize that President Bush is neither the anti-Christ, evil or any other terrible things that have been said or implied.

"Third, as a man of faith, you should do more to respect his faith and respect the faith of the millions of faithful who voted for him. The time is past for implying (or outright stating) your opinion that all Bush supporters are stupid or naive. I think the election came down to this realization on the part of many: If we are faithful, God will provide. Look to the story of Job and his faith for strength. He was rewarded many times over for his unwavering faith. We should put our faith first, and trust the rest to the Lord. I hope that this election signals a step in that direction by millions."

To downtrodden liberals, take a deep breath. Enjoy the holidays. Heal the nation if we can. Don't take on a victim mentality. To the Republicans, have a little compassion and realize how badly some were hurt by the results.

Please, can we now enjoy the holidays and leave politics behind temporarily? I'm not giving up on America. I support national unity. May God continue to bless the United States of America.

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