Probably two decades ago, Terry and I and a dear friend visiting from Missouri headed to the local marina and climbed aboard our pontoon docked there. The day was pristine. The sun was shining. The temperatures were warm but not hot. It was just comfortable.
As we headed out into the upper Missouri River, we had a goal besides enjoying the ride and the weather. The Oahe Dam, about five miles north of Pierre, South Dakota, had reached the capacity at which the Corps of Engineers had ordered the opening of the spillway, allowing the water to surge through and protecting the waters and communities upstream as well as the integrity of the dam itself. Stories had abounded at this wonder of coursing waters. We wanted to see it for ourselves.We had donned our swimming suits and coverups, our sunglasses, and our suntan lotion. No doubt we were armed with a bottle or two of wine and some cheese and crackers. It was a great trip upstream. But the rushing waters were so strong that we couldn’t get very close to either the massive dam or the spillway.
After we returned to the marina, we climbed in the car and headed back upriver via land. Arriving at the dam and the spillway, we parked, got out and joined the other spectators as we watched and listened to the roaring but controlled waters right beneath us. It was a community event that had continued for several days. We saw people there we knew from our city. It gathered all of us in conversation.
One of the people we saw there was a state senator. He was, technically, one of Terry’s bosses because Terry was serving as director of the South Dakota Legislative Council at that time. The LRC serves as the non-partisan staff to the state legislature. In my mind, we stayed a lot longer than we needed to and the sun was beating on us in our swimwear, but Terry and this senator were deep in conversation so we couldn’t just take off until he was ready to go.
From the dam and spillway, we proceeded upstream, again via land, to a lakeside restaurant we enjoyed. After we ordered, Terry adjourned to the restroom. That’s where things got interesting.
After we got home that night, Terry told me that when he went to the restroom, he realized he wasn’t wearing his Tommy Hilfiger swim trunks as he had thought. He was wearing his Tommy Hilfiger boxer shorts. He was almost commando.
I hadn’t noticed. The similarities between those two pieces of apparel were astounding from the outside. Both were of the patriotic design upon which Hilfiger hung his brand for a number of years. I can only assume that the boxer shorts were even more comfortable from the inside. In any case, Terry didn’t realize that he was in his underwear not only in front of my dear friend but in front of everyone gathered at the spillway and the restaurant.
Then we laughed. Terry had stood there in his underwear and in animated conversation with a state senator.
Some years later, that state senator was elected governor. The legend of the underwear only expanded as we could tell folks that Terry had a long conversation in his underwear with the governor.
Then the governor was elected to the U.S. Senate. The Tommy Hilfiger underwear story and the confusion about the swim trunks has taken on a life of its own and gotten bigger with each retelling of the tale. A simple embarrassment that has amounted to nothing really, except for a good anecdote about the river that doesn’t involve fish.
This country had a presidential election yesterday. About half the country is grieving this morning. The other half is either celebrating or praying they made the right decision.
My grieving about this took place months ago when the two candidates representing the Republicans and Democrats were finalized. I couldn’t believe that as a country this was the best we could do. I was deeply disappointed in the decisions of the American political parties as they settled on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I knew immediately that I couldn’t support either one of them. My reasons were many and now irrelevant except I can say that I had been hopeful a candidate would arise who would clearly be able to find his or her way into compromise for a country so deeply divided. I didn’t believe either of those contenders could possibly do that.So as the weeks passed leading up to the election yesterday, my grief only grew deeper and then reached a point where I was just ready to move on. I didn’t have a dog in this hunt. I resigned myself to whatever uncertainty lay ahead.
I hadn’t intended to watch the election coverage on TV but we had our first fire of the season in our newly cleaned fireplace. It was cozy and there was a cat for every lap. I, like most of the country, just assumed that Secretary Clinton would win. It was just a question of how long it would take and what the margin would be.
I drifted in and out of sleep and woke up to find that Mr. Trump had carried Florida. Catnaps later, I awoke to find he was carrying Ohio and North Carolina and, perhaps, Pennsylvania.
But what surprised me the most (and all of those surprised me) was the news that he carried Wisconsin, a blue state since the ‘80s. A state I have called home for the last 16 years. I never would have imagined it.
We live in Dane County, Wisconsin, just outside of Madison, the state capital and one of the bastions of liberal and progressive thinking in this country. As such, and living among that mindset, it is difficult to conceive of a scenario that would result in a Republican (so-called or not) winning the state. I couldn’t believe my eyes and my ears. Throughout this campaign I have heard Clinton supporters and Trump supporters alike say with the utmost sincerity, “I am concerned about the future of this country.” At least they hold that much in common but they are unable to see the legitimacy in the concerns of their opponents.
Watching how all this unfolded, one might think that I would find some solace with either the winners or the losers. Fact is, my aforementioned grieving enabled me to feel some great sympathy for the Clinton team as well as some of the excitement for the Trump supporters. It didn’t change my opinion of either of the candidates.
The fact remains that we don’t know what will come of all of this. The fact remains that of the two, it really didn’t matter to me which one of them won because I thought neither one of them had the integrity to be President of the United States.
But the surprise of the outcome reminded me of Terry’s foray in public in his underwear. All of us, win or lose and with few exceptions, have been caught publicly in our underwear. That includes the candidates, the political parties, the pundits, and the news media.
We all have egg on our faces because we didn’t see it coming. We refused to see it coming. It will be the stuff of legend for years to come.
Now I can pray that in victory or defeat, and as we allow our grief to heal us, we might be willing and open-minded enough to seek compromise in a deeply divided nation. A nation under God. Perhaps we can allow God to unite us.
“28.…I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.” – Joel 2:28
“2 “If one ventures a word with you, will you be offended?
But who can keep from speaking?
3 See, you have instructed many;
you have strengthened the weak hands.
4 Your words have supported those who were stumbling,
and you have made firm the feeble knees.
5 But now it has come to you, and you are impatient;
it touches you, and you are dismayed.
6 Is not your fear of God your confidence,
and the integrity of your ways your hope?” – Job 4:2-6