Indulge for a moment my hopeful fantasy that America made an underwhelming decision in November -- but a decision, nevertheless -- to nudge the liberal/conservative stalemate the tiniest fraction of an inch in a progressive direction.
It would be hard to overstate the understated nature of this decision. The re-election of President Barack Obama wasn't a squeaker, but it was hardly a rout. Nevertheless, practical Republicans in Washington have been compelled gently toward the center, and the Tea Party movement has lost a little ground. Louisiana's Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, says his party has got to stop being the "stupid party," and the GOP is looking for ways to generate more appeal for Hispanics, women and blacks.
On the other hand, many red states persist in their redness. Thirty states have Republican governors, and in 27 states both legislative bodies are controlled by the GOP.
And in the wake of the 2012 election, some red states seem to have gotten redder. My own state -- Texas -- is a good example:
The brutal murder of 20 schoolchildren in Connecticut brought back to the table -- briefly, at least -- a rational discussion of our nation's gun laws. The administration's proposals in response have been relatively modest: universal background checks, bans on assault weapons, limitations on the particularly deadly high-capacity magazines.
But Texas' leaders are pushing back hard, calling for more guns in classrooms, not fewer.
In fact, one Texas legislator has introduced a bill that will require Texas police to arrest federal law officers who attempt to enforce any federal gun and ammunition bans in Texas, despite the measure's questionable constitutionality.
Our governor, former presidential candidate Rick Perry, says that more gun laws aren't called for, but, rather, more prayer, a remedy he's recommended for other dilemmas, including the health of the economy and the devastating 2011 Texas drought.
Trouble is, liberals pray, too. Maybe not as much as conservatives -- I'm just guessing about this -- but enough to set up what must feel like a schizophrenic tug-of-war in the mind of God, with good, faithful people praying toward opposite ends.
And, if they have a chance, shooting victims pray hardest of all, but their supplications stand little chance against high-capacity magazines that spray bullets like water from a garden hose.
No, God's not going to solve this one for us, any more than He's likely to step in and end a drought, balance the federal budget, reverse climate change, or help us figure out how to get along fairly with whatever percentage of the population He chose to create gay.
These are problems that we'll have to face up to on our own, but on most of them we're of two distinctly different minds, a condition that unbalances us enough as a nation that it prevents much meaningful action, at all.
We see occasional signs of progress and hope. Obamacare is a small step in the right direction toward a healthier society.
And at least the Boy Scouts considered treating gay Americans the same as any other before deciding not to. My governor was prominent in the "not to" camp, urging the Scouts not to let "100 years of their standards" get pushed around by "popular culture."
One familiar, perhaps over-used, definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Another good definition might involve a mind so divided that it's incapable of taking any action.
That's why our modest movement toward the political left -- toward the center, really -- was a welcome, if tiny, first step.
Unfortunately, our nation's biggest challenges -- the debt, infrastructure, education, discrimination, income inequality, and, biggest of all, climate change, which mostly we keep well hidden within a cloud of denial -- demand action, resolve and sacrifice. If you're religious, prayer is probably called for. But failing to act -- and soon -- in a rational, meaningful manner is, well, madness.
(John Crisp teaches in the English Department at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas.)