Whenever a nation is wounded a healer is called for. Any social culture can become sick or hurt--a family, business, or an entire country--and as we stand right now, our American culture has been badly damaged on many fronts. Folks are angry, frustrated, properly frightened or in various stages of denial. They need healing.
A leader who can reassure (without fake empathy), listen deeply and compassionately, and offer considered wisdom is badly needed. Both Lincoln and FDR had command of such healing properties. They understood the nature of the " illness" people were experiencing. Churchill's railing against "the Nazis" helped his fellow Brits vent, and his dogged determination promoted a feisty brand of hope.
Today's anxiety and outrage are not different for members of one political party or another. Our suffering isn't partisan. We suffer as members of a wounded society--not as Republicans or Democrats, or as Jews, Christians, or Muslims. We may prefer one candidate's philosophy, policy remedies, style, or background. But the leader who can tamp down angry excesses and light a candle of hope in our hearts will win the day.
It may feel good for a candidate to feed the crowd the raw meat of prejudice or instill doubt about the rival's patriotism, but such tactics won't prevail in a time when healing is called for. The spectacle of Sarah Palin "aw shucks-ing" her way to mean-spirited accusations reveals a hurter, not a healer. Entertaining, perhaps. Demagogic certainly. But the act fails because it doesn't raise people's hopes and dreams or comfort their sorrows or bind their wounds. In the end the act is all about Sarah.
Barack Obama is a natural healer. His tone and demeanor are soothing. He focuses on the uplifting rather than the negative. His equipoise under pressure is powerfully reassuring. Obama has a lightness of spirit and a diagnostician's curiosity. He listens, learns, and then responds. He isn't working from a script that constrains his ability to be spontaneous and caring.
Healers must respond to the patient. Today, in this moment, the patient is us, the collective called America.