A couple of things happened today that helped, a little, to restore my faith in America as a fit place for humans.
It wasn't the polls, which continued to show Barack Obama ahead in the popular vote and (more importantly) on the electoral map. It wasn't the Wall Street rebound; after all, stocks were due for a bounce after a huge wave of panic selling.
No, I'm talking about little things. Little things that mean a lot.
First, there was a telling moment at an Obama rally in Ohio. "Now, my opponent…" the candidate began. "Boo!" called out some of the crowd. "Now, we don't need that," said Obama, hushing them quickly. "We need you to vote." And the crowd responded with a cheer. Here, in a couple of seconds, was a partisan crowd being reminded of, then drawing upon, their better natures. Primed to grab for the bait, instead they rejected the option to answer in kind the vitriol that's been flaring up at some of McCain and Palin's recent events.
Second was something the economist and journalist Paul Krugman said during an interview on NPR after winning this year's Nobel Prize in Economics. Asked who should have foreseen the severity of the economic crisis, he answered, "I should have." He went on to say that a lot of people should have, and singled out Alan Greenspan for ignoring warnings. But Krugman first pointed the finger at himself.
Mea culpas are far too rare in American society. In Japan, businessmen who fail at their jobs tend to apologize and resign. In America, they get golden parachutes and rarely admit personal responsibility. In America, candidates' economic advisers take purely partisan lines and won't admit that an opposing point might have any validity whatsoever.
Paul Krugman did something different today, something more honorable. It was a very little thing. But like the Obama crowd's sudden veer towards positivity, it was a bright spot in a difficult and dark time.
Humanity rears its mild, non-hate-filled head. Twice in one day! Imagine that.