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When it’s all said and done

Tuesday’s runoff election feels like the culmination of a years-long campaign, the period at the end of a long and rambling sentence that, in the end, will likely have said little and accomplished even less.

As elections generally do, this one has turned us into a pack of wild beasts, frothing at the mouth and ready to pounce on prey which, in any other season, would be recognized as a neighbor or friend – we’re cannibalizing our community over a poorly-attended popularity contest, just as we do every four years in an endless and excruciating cycle.

But when the campaigning is done, when the signs have withered away in supporters’ yards, when the hopes of the defeated are dashed and the expectations of the victors are proven fruitless, when the unrealistic promises and baseless attacks cease, when the work of governance begins and the specters of secrecy, obstruction and apathy again rear their ugly heads, where will we be?

Will we have dug such deep rifts between one another that reconciliation is a fever dream better left to the next generation? Will we watch helplessly as the same leader-induced social diseases continue to wreak havoc on this city and its people?

“Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts? Hot ashes for trees? Hot air for a cool breeze? Cold comfort for change? Did you exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in the cage?”

Indeed, only time will tell, but what is certain is that – no matter who’s in office, no matter what votes they take, no matter what successes they tout or failures they ignore – the people of this city will continue living, just as they always have, and the wheels of the world will continue spinning, just as they always have, and we’ll be right back where we are now in four short years, just as we always have.

Because, simply put, there is no such thing as a problem that politicians can solve – they’re not manufactured that way, they are more in the business of creating controversy and sowing discord, they make grand assertions that are either wholly fantastical or incapable of being enacted, like the kid running for class president who promises pizza and chocolate milk every day of the week.

No, real change comes, as it always has, from the people.

Selma knows this better than most places and has likewise risen to the occasion in uncountable and immeasurable ways, so the existential threat of this election spreading division among the only bloc capable of rebuilding this city is one that every citizen should take quite seriously.

The only thing that has kept this city alive over the last two decades of decline is the will of its people, unified in their love for this town and hopelessly devoted to its reanimation, and any menace to that spirit of togetherness – more so than the failure to elect promising candidates to city offices – is a threat to the city itself.

As we wipe the dirt of this election from beneath our nails and comb its residue out of our hair, let us not lose sight of the fact that the very thing we seek to protect and provide for and advance – this city and, more importantly, its people – will survive this election and see a new day.

And though it will be left to a new mayor and a new council to determine the official path the city will take over the next four years, it will be the men and women and children of this community that ensure it is healthy enough, vibrant enough and strong enough, for the long and arduous journey ahead.