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HETRICK: Moving on and starting over in life, art and politics

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Bruce Hetrick

When my cell phone rang a few days ago, I figured it was a campaign volunteer wanting me to vote early or donate money. Or a student wanting to set up office hours. Or a salesperson touting some once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

But the call brought bad news.

A friend, a woman in her mid-40s, had lost her husband: a man of 46, a father of three, a former college football player, and a strapping fitness buff. He’d died suddenly just a few days after the couple’s wedding anniversary.

My caller, a mutual friend, said it was an embolism or blood clot. She thought I’d want to know.

Suddenly, political campaigns and college students and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities didn’t matter much.

The next evening, my wife and I attended opening night of a world-premiere play called “The House That Jack Built” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre.

We never see the title character in James Still’s Thanksgiving story. Like the absent father in Tennessee Williams’ “A Glass Menagerie” or the dead college friend in the film “The Big Chill,” Jack is ever-present but never seen. He’s the undertow.

Throughout this funny and poignant play, Jack’s widow, his mother and his sister are each struggling, in their own way, to deal with Jack’s death and move on.

Jules, Jack’s widow, tells of the extraordinary measures she’s taken to keep Jack’s spirit alive and in her life—including seeing a shaman.

“I thought all this meant that I would rescue Jack,” says Jules. “That I might bring him back, like some Greek myth.”

“Poor Jack,” says Jack’s mother, Helen. “He must have wondered what to do.”

“What do you mean?” says Jules.

“I wanted him to stay put so I’d be able to find him when I got to heaven. And all the while you were trying to bring him back. He must have wondered what to do. Jack. ‘Should I stay or should I go?’”

“Maybe it’s the living who haunt the dead,” says Jules.

“But you didn’t bring him back,” says Lulu, Jack’s sister.

“Turns out it wasn’t Jack who needed rescuing,” says Jules. “It was me. I had to bring myself back from the dead.”

“How?” asks Lulu.

“I had to start all over again, from the very beginning. Slowly. Quickly. Quietly. Loudly.”

And so it is for everyone in Jack’s life. Trying to move on. Struggling to start over.

Someday, my friend who lost her husband will have to move on and start over. Once upon a time, I did too.

After the election Tuesday night, many of my friends on Facebook and some of the pundits and politicians I follow on Twitter spoke of starting over.

Some who supported Mitt Romney were bitter.

Some who supported Barack Obama were giddy.

But many saw not a chance to gripe or gloat, but rather to move on and start over on shared challenges.

“The nation, as you know, is at a critical point,” said Mitt Romney in an eloquent concession speech delivered in Boston. “At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work.”

Ever the business advocate, he called on “job creators of all kinds” “to invest, to hire, to step forward. And we look to Democrats and Republicans in government at all levels to put the people before the politics.”

Moving on. Starting over.

In his Chicago victory speech that followed, Barack Obama delivered a similar message.

“In the coming weeks and months,” Obama said, “I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together.

“I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests,” he said. “We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and forever will be, the United States of America.”

Moving on. Starting over.

On election night, some of my preferred candidates won. Three of my dear friends lost. But despite our often-nasty electoral process and our Rube Goldberg governance model, I’m grateful to live in a nation with peaceful transitions of power and broad participation by all who choose to partake.

Now, like the characters in James Still’s “The House That Jack Built,” we have to get over it. We have to move on.

As my friend who’s lost her husband and her children who’ve lost their father will now learn; as Jack’s family had to learn; as I once learned, life is too short for grudges and sour grapes, for backstabbing and obstruction.

It’s time to move on. It’s time to start over. It’s time to make like Jack and build this house together.•

__________

Hetrick is an Indianapolis-based writer, speaker and public relations consultant. His column appears twice a month. He can be reached at bhetrick@ibj.com.

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  1. Socialized medicine works great for white people in Scandanavia. It works well in Costa Rica for a population that is partly white and partly mestizo. I don't really see Obamacare as something aimed against whites. I think that is a Republican canard designed to elicit support from white people for republican candidates who don't care about them any more than democrats care about the non-whites they pander to with their phony maneuvers. But what is different between Costa Rica nd the Scandanavian nations on one hand and the US on the other? SIZE. Maybe the US is just too damn big. Maybe it just needs to be divided into smaller self governing pieces like when the old Holy Roman Empire was dismantled. Maybe we are always trying the same set of solutions for different kinds of people as if we were all the same. Oh-- I know-- that is liberal dogma, that we are all the same. Which is the most idiotic American notion going right back to the propaganda of 1776. All men are different and their differences are myriad and that which is different is not equal. The state which pretends men are all the same is going to force men to be the same. That is what America does here, that is what we do in our stupid overseas wars, that is how we destroy true diversity and true difference, and we are all as different groups of folks, feeling the pains of how capitalism is grinding us down into equally insignificant proletarian microconsumers with no other identity whether we like it or not. And the Marxists had this much right about the War of Independence: it was fundamentally a war of capitalist against feudal systems. America has been about big money since day one and whatever gets in the way is crushed. Health care is just another market and Obamacare, to the extent that it Rationalizes and makes more uniform a market which should actually be really different in nature and delivery from place to place-- well that will serve the interests of the biggest capitalist stakeholders in health care which is not Walmart for Gosh Sakes it is the INSURANCE INDUSTRY. CUI BONO Obamacare? The insurance industry. So republicans drop the delusion pro capitalist scales from your eyes this has almost nothing to do with race or "socialism" it has to do mostly with what the INSURANCE INDUSTRY wants to have happen in order to make their lives and profits easier.

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