As an independent, I have many thoughts about this election. While some of them border on funny, almost none of them are particularly original.
Among the best of them, "Lawyerball makes a terrible spectator sport" and "After a brutal and hard-fought struggle, our long national nightmare is finally coming to a middle."
But there's one thought, a question really, that I don't think I've ever heard before:
Why do we have a general election in November?
Fall is a season of declining light. And by Nov. 3rd, everyone has felt the oppression of the shorter days and greater darkness. And most of us have been freshly rattled by the time change.
Daylight Savings Time is a fine example of stubborn law that evidence shows is bad, that we can't seem to get rid of. In August of this year, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine released a position statement officially calling for Daylight Savings Time to be canceled. There's plenty of evidence that it's bad, but chief among it is a 48-year long study in Vienna that shows that all-cause mortality spikes 3% the week following the transition to daylight savings time. That's right, changing the clock literally kills people. Heart attacks, strokes, mental health incidents and traffic accidents all jump.
To mess with our circadian rhythms in any way is subtle and profound. As much as we might like to flatter ourselves (and we do, after all, we named ourselves Homo Sapiens, wise man? Not on the preponderance of evidence, friend.) we simply cannot escape our animal nature; that legacy, good and bad, that evolution has bequeathed us.
There is a reason every society in the Northern Hemisphere has celebrated a festival around the end of December. The Saturnalia, Hanukkah, the festival of Mithras, and, of course, Christmas, just to name the big ones.
The end of December, say, about four days after the Solstice, is the time that you can clearly tell that the days are getting longer. It's the sign you get that the natural world, which has visibly been dying since the end of summer, will return for another year. You can correctly dismiss this as primitive superstition, but for hundreds of thousands if not millions of years, our species and the species we evolved from were profoundly affected by the dying and return of the light. And since they didn't have science to push back against it, they used religion. It shows up everywhere.
In Aztec cosmology, the sun god Huitzilopochtli ( hoo weets zil o poached-li ) wages a constant war against darkness and if the darkness won, the world would end. They keep the sun moving across the sky and preserve their very lives, the Aztecs had to feed Huitzilopochtli with human hearts and blood.
With the speed and flashiness that the modern world distracts us, we underestimate the power of the more subtle rhythms of life. The amount that the seasons and the weather affect us. The cost of not getting adequate sleep and exercise. And, for sure, the time that it takes to process real grief.
Which brings me back around to Nov 3rd? If you were going to pick the absolute worst time to stress out an entire nation, the early part of November would definitely make your shortlist.
So why? The unenlightening answer is because that's the day Congress picked in 1845. And with the dreadful weight of precedence and legality, that's where it stays.
The UK holds general elections December 12th. Germany October 24th. But I think the French have, a better idea. April 8th. Just as golf is best when played downhill, I think elections are best in Spring.
A riot of energy and potential, chaos settling into growth and renewal, unmistakable signs from the universe that life will go on. Thunderstorms and then flowers.
Aesthetically, isn't that's the right time to have the drama of an election?
To be clear, I don't want to venerate politics or politicians in any way. I don't believe there are many problems a political process actually makes better. And, in many cases, you can measure that. For example, the "success" of the War on Drugs.
This makes the increasing politicization of all aspects of our life a disturbing trend for me. But there certainly are some problems that we can't seem to solve any other way.
Do I seriously think we should move the election to April? For aesthetic reasons, I think the case is irrefutable. But politics isn't about beauty. And I have no evidence that the effort it would take would be worth it.
But Daylight Savings Time? We should be able to do something about that.