This is being written before the election, but appearing after it, leaving me in the gray zone most of us have inhabited throughout the pandemic – now dragging on into another winter.

Prolonged uncertainty is hard to bear, but the “certainties” some of us have decided on are far worse, distorting the world’s politics, and much of its public life. There is no antidote, only muddling through, but we could try looking at things from a different, even opposite perspective.

Anyone with a metal shop is familiar with this technique. You’ve whanged away at a piece of metal, perhaps a recalcitrant bolt, for quite awhile, and then you think – could this be a “left hand” thread, the one that turns opposite the usual way?

I’ve tried applying this to the mask-and-vaccine wars, without success. Ending the pandemic depends on having as many people vaccinated as we possibly can. Period.

It’s one thing to refuse to be vaccinated. Our system of laws and government was founded, in part, on this right.

It’s quite another to base a movement on false claims that mislead millions of people, taking advantage of vulnerability and ignorance in a desperate bid to maintain, or regain, power.

There will be a dreadful reckoning: Worldwide, millions of people will have died unnecessarily. It will be even more difficult for those, years hence, who finally realize Donald Trump did lose the election.

Yet this “opposite perspective” can work with the great voting battles, which have been going on since the Republic’s earliest days.

I’ve always held that voting should be safe, secure, and convenient – things it seems we should all want.

Maine Republicans made a mistake when, after briefly winning a “trifecta” in 2010, they decided citizens didn’t really care about being able to register on Election Day. The resulting people’s veto campaign in 2011 disabused them, and perhaps contributed to GOP losses the following year.

Yet not every attempt to limit drop boxes or early voting hours necessarily qualifies as “voter suppression.” Take the voter ID laws many states have passed.

The relevant U.S. Supreme Court case came in 2008, when such requirements were challenged in Marion County, Indiana, but upheld. Justice John Paul Stevens, who wrote the majority opinion, later regretted it.

The evidence before the court, Stevens said, didn’t suggest how many voters, and potential voters, lacked the proper credentials.

Doesn’t everybody have a driver’s license or credit card? No, they didn’t and still don’t. Such requirements can work to disenfranchise voters, or at least make voting much tougher.

Yet the reaction in many “blue” states, including Maine, gave me pause. Rather than opposing any ID requirement, as most Democrats did, why not provide a free ID, upon registration, for any voter who wants one?

We could, in one process, provide more security while providing more access; after all, since the late 19th century, we have used secret ballots. We still can, though I’m not holding my breath.

For it’s certainly understandable that the public, and not just one party, would wonder whether those private ballots are being counted correctly.

The “automatic registration” law Maine Democrats passed also bothered me. It turns out this is simply a tweak of the federal “motor-voter” law President Clinton signed in 1993, which made registration forms widely available at motor vehicle offices.

The new law works as an “opt out” system, rather than “opt in.” You can still refuse to register, as is your right.

But calling this “automatic,” like the broad-brush “suppression” allegations, seems over the top. Voting should always be a fully intentional act.

Don’t misunderstand: No one should be prosecuted for offering water to a thirsty voter in a seemingly endless line. No independent election board should be replaced with a partisan fiefdom.

And no citizen should support what happened on January 6, when, following what might have been our freest and fairest election ever, a “stop the steal” rally tried to do just that: steal the election, in truly Orwellian fashion.

Most everyone will be unhappy with some result that just occurred on Tuesday; many will think that the voters, peacefully assembled, made the wrong decision, but certified results must be accepted, or democracy is lost.

We must reason together, calmly, if we are to find a way out of this morass. It starts by talking with those of different persuasions, and listening; too often we’re doing the opposite.

A columnist I read regularly puts it bluntly: “Critical thinking has become a reverse process. First we decide, then we invent ways to deny the truth.”

For the sake of our country, and ourselves, we’ve got to stop doing this.

Douglas Rooks, a Maine editor, commentator and reporter since 1984, is the author of three books. His first, “Statesman: George Mitchell and the Art of the Possible,” is now out in paperback. He welcomes comment at [email protected]

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