Fribble What's Right With This Election

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By Leonard J. Lipson (lenny@pobox.com)
November 14, 2000

Sometimes I think we need to put things in perspective. With all of the turmoil over the presidential election, many people are focused on what went wrong. No one seems to be talking about what went right in this election.

My wife, daughter, and I have the privilege of living and working in Germany. Not many people from the United States get to spend an extended period of time learning and living in a different country. It has been quite an experience for us, and even though I miss some things about living in the United States, I would not trade this experience for anything.

I watched the events of this presidential election unfold the past few days. By all accounts it was an historic event. I've had the task of explaining to my daughter and many of our German friends the entire history and process of the presidential electoral process. Needless to say, I've had to relearn some of my past civics lessons.

As the past few days unfolded, I became more and more concerned about the fact that we still don't know who will be the next president. It was actually causing a bit of anxiety in me. What will the long-term effect be? How will the markets react to this? What does the rest of the world think of this? All sorts of questions were rolling through my mind. With allegations of election problems, fraud, and unclear ballots, I wondered what had happened to our election process.

Last Thursday marked another historic event in history. On November 9, 1938, the Nazis unleashed a wave of violence against Germany's Jews. In only a few hours, thousands of synagogues and Jewish businesses and homes were damaged or destroyed. This event came to be called Kristallnacht or the Night of Broken Glass. For the first time, Jews were arrested on a massive scale and transported to Nazi concentration camps. This set the stage for the Holocaust.

To remember this terrible event, we took my 10-year-old daughter on a tour in our local area. We visited a small Holocaust memorial in Frankfurt. It contained the names and towns of thousands of Jews from the local area. My daughter even noticed a family from the town we live in who had perished in the Holocaust. Next we visited a synagogue in Heidelberg and viewed photos taken during Kristallnacht. My daughter wondered why people were smiling and didn't seem to care about what had just happened. That's one of the hardest questions I've ever had to answer. Finally we visited the site of a former Jewish synagogue on the side of a hill. All that remains is a marble plaque marking the spot where the synagogue once stood. All of this was quite an experience. It points out how wrong things can get in our world.

As we walked down the hill toward the nearby U.S. military base, I watched as a young soldier stood guard on a corner in the rain. It suddenly dawned on me, everything in the election worked as it was supposed to. This soldier was still doing his duty even if he doesn't know who the next president will be. There are no tanks rolling down the street in the U.S., the military isn't planning a coup, there is no panic in the streets. While it may be a while before we know who the next president will be, in the end, we will still have a peaceful transition of government.

This is what is right with this election.