03/25/2008 12:05 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Oh, That Way Madness Lies

Thou think'st 'tis much that this contentious storm
Invades us to the skin: so 'tis to thee;
But where the greater malady is fix'd,
The lesser is scarce felt...

The body's delicate: the tempest in my mind
Doth from my senses take all feeling else
Save what beats there...

O, that way madness lies; let me shun that;
No more of that.
--King Lear, Act 3, Scene 4

As Shakespeare so beautifully reminded us, when we become obsessed with a problem or worry or grief or point of view, this inner tempest can take over our minds to such an extent that we forget all else, even when it comes to taking care of ourselves.

And, as Lear pointed out, that way madness certainly lies.

I discovered this for myself when my son was deployed the first time; I felt myself disconnecting with reality to some extent; the daily, ongoing, constant terror was so all-encompassing. I could scarcely endure a moment that I was not thinking of him and frightened for him. The only relief was in the sporadic, brief calls he could make on staticky satellite phones, (I could know he was alive and well during that brief interlude), and during the three-week Battle of Fallujah, we didn't hear from him at all.

All we could do was watch the horrors unfold as Marines died daily, and live in dread of the dark blue sedan making its slow funereal way down our road.

What this kind of stress does is, it rewires your brain. All that adrenaline and cortisol and other stress hormones flood the brain and body, and the synapses rewire themselves to cope with the overload.

And you are never quite the same again.

My sister-in-law, Kay, and I share a deep bond, because her son Michael also deployed three times to Iraq with the Marines, and saw terrible things. Although we are split down the middle politically, none of that matters when it comes to our boys.

Recently, on a visit to my in-laws, Kay confided to me that she doesn't sleep well at night. I asked her why, and she said, "Ever since Michael deployed the first time, I just have not been able to sleep more than a couple hours at a time."

I stared at her and said, "I thought it was just me!"

See, both our boys have completed their active-duty commitments and are easing back into civilian life. Michael is going to college, my son Dustin, considering maybe going back to school, picking up a teacher's certificate, and using his leadership skills with high school kids.

They are safe now. And yet, still their mothers cannot sleep.

I share my own slight madness with you at this time because I'm starting to recognize similar symptoms among Democrats as this political campaign season drags on and on.

The stakes for our country--and for all of us--is so damned high. Each side is beginning to solidify into rigidity and anger, and many are threatening to vote Republican if their candidate is not nominated.

Oh, but that way madness lies.

Allow me, a crazy Marine mom, to remind all my Democratic brothers and sisters of a few facts:

This Democratic party is the party that is responsible for some of the greatest achievements this country has ever seen: civil rights, social security benefits for the elderly, Medicaid and Medicare, labor and child safety laws, the United Nations, the Marshall Plan, protections for the environment, the desegregation of the American military under Truman, the ending of the Vietnam war, the cessation of genocide in the Balkans without the loss of a single American life, the family leave act that makes it possible for new mothers to stay home for a few weeks without losing their jobs, and so very much more.

How can ANY Democrat be thinking reasonably, when they threaten to vote for a man who has allied himself with some of the most disastrous disasters of the Bush administration--from the Iraq war to making tax cuts for the rich permanent to installing probably at least two more Supreme Court justices along the lines of Alito?

I could go on and on.

Back in 2000, many disgruntled or otherwise idealistic liberals cast their precious votes for Ralph Nader--just enough votes to cost Al Gore the election. And look how well THAT turned out.

It is a fine thing that Democrats have been so energized and excited this political season and have hurled themselves so wholeheartedly into supporting either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama for the nomination.

But in our zeal and feverish advocacy, let us not allow our minds to be fogged over with madness.

Let us not forget that four more U.S. soldiers were blown apart this weekend, bringing the total war-dead to 4,000.

Did you know that these soldiers each wore two sets of dog tags? One around their necks, and one down in one of their boots.

This is so that, when their buddies are picking up body pieces and trying to put together enough to send home, they can identifiy their friends by the dog tags in their boot, if their heads are gone.

This is the reality of war.

This is the war John McCain wants to continue as he sees fit for years upon endless miserable bloody years.

But if, as one reader put it, the war is not a "defining issue" for you, then let me remind you that McCain is also vehemently anti-choice and will do everything in his power as president to remove a woman's sovereignty over her own body--before I go on, let me quote from one of Hillary's most outspoken and eloquent supporters at TPM Cafe, Destor23:

"So there you have it. If you support Hillary Clinton then you are for withdrawing troops from Iraq, for universal healthcare, for a woman's right to choose and eager to have a president who will not be entering senility on day one. So how can you possibly say you would vote for McCain over Obama?

"We're supposedly issues-based supporters who are maybe suspicious of Obama's emotional appeal. On the issues, Obama is a better choice for a Clinton supporter than McCain is. If Clinton loses the primary, a Clinton vote for McCain is just a vote cast out of spite. If we're willing to vote with spite than any criticisms we might have uttered about Obama's appeals to emotion over reason are pretty hypocritical.

"I'll never quite believe that we need to fundamentally change America. But I do believe that we have to change the way we run it in a very practical way. Only two credible candidates running for president agree with me about what those changes are. Unfortunately they're in the same party and they probably can't stand each other anymore, so there can be only one.

"And it can't be the senile man from the other side."

While I might respectfully debate with Destor23 that we Obama supporters are not just drawn to his emotional appeal--this week alone, he gave major, non-rally speeches on race relations, the war in Iraq, and the economy--I would wholeheartedly agree with him that, no matter what, it can't be the man from the other side.

As we get deeper into the muck of mud-slinging back and forth, we would do well to heed the words of a writer, Jennifer Finney Boylan, living in Maine, who penned an op-ed for the New York Times, "The Democrats' Endless Winter," about how we are beginning to resemble the "mud season" of Maine, when endless storms postpone the delights of spring:

"It's as if Groundhog Day coincided with the Texas and Ohio primaries, and Punxsutawney Hillary came out of her hole and saw her shadow. Now we're all doomed to another six weeks of attack ads when -- let's face it -- all we really want are daffodils.

"An American voter, particularly a member of the Democratic Party, could be forgiven if she yearns for the one thing she cannot have: for Mud Season to be over. All I can say is, now you know how Mainers feel in the spring, every single year...

"Does it matter at this point which one wins?

"Not half as much as it matters that somebody, somehow, puts an end to Mud Season and brings the nation back to spring."

It's up to us to do this. Not just the campaigns, but those of us posting blogs and comments on blogs. We can't forget that we are all in this together, in a common cause. If we throw too much mud, we'll all get bogged down in it.

And the Republicans are watching.

In his op-ed for the New York Times, "The Republican Resurrection," Frank Rich reminds us eloquently of the consequences for our own madness:

"For Republicans, the prospect of marathon Democratic trench warfare is an Easter miracle. Saddled with the legacy of both Iraq and a cratering economy, the G.O.P. can only rejoice at its opponents' talent for self-destruction. The Republicans can also count on the help of a political press that, whatever its supposed tilt toward Mr. Obama, remains most benevolent toward John McCain.

"This was strikingly apparent last week, when Mr. McCain's calamitous behavior was relegated to sideshow status by many, if not most, news media. At a time of serious peril for America, the G.O.P.'s presumptive presidential nominee revealed himself to be alarmingly out of touch on both of the most pressing issues roiling the country. "

There is a certain madness that goes along with winter. It's called "cabin fever," and it has to do with being cooped up too long against winter's storms.

In some ways, our party has been cooped up for months on end with the same front-runners, and maybe it is driving us a bit mad.

Sometimes, it is true, as Shakespeare so wisely pointed out four hundred years ago, that the tempest in our minds can sometimes take from our senses "all feeling else save what beats there."

And that way, surely, madness lies.

We must never forget that the tempest without--and the threats to our country from it--is far more serious than any we may have going on in our own minds.

We can't give in to it--that inner madness.

Let me shun that. No more of that.

(cross-posted at author's blog at Talking Points Memo's TPM Cafe)