In a commentary this week, Donna Hicks of Harvard University wondered whether it was relief or whether it was gratitude that she felt as she watched Gov. Chris Christie praise President Obama's leadership in his handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
On this, the day after the end of a bruising, shrill, divisive political season that started too early and lasted too long, it would be so incredibly comforting to know the answer.
Too many of us reveled in how the national media played the Christie-Obama story.
"The commentary that followed wasn't about how the two men were able to transcend the divided politics that characterize our nation. It wasn't about what it took for Gov. Christie to say no to party politics and yes to doing what was right. It wasn't about the extraordinary leadership he and President Obama displayed. It was about 'bromance'," she wrote.
Yes. It was about how Gov. Christie's remarks might affect the presidential election, and, even, how he could be such a turncoat.
"To call it a 'bromance' trivializes what happened between the two men," Hicks, who is an associate at Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, wrote.
"I call it dignified leadership - the kind that we are all yearning to see, but haven't in the lead up to this election," she wrote. "We have seen the opposite: negative campaign ads on both sides characterizing the opponents as untrustworthy, incompetent, bad for America, if not questioning each other's integrity. It is no longer a debate about ideas. What is considered acceptable during this campaign has reached an all time low. Even dignity is up for grabs.
"I spend most of my time now giving talks about dignity and the essential role it plays in our lives and relationships. My career in international conflict resolution sensitized me to the horrors of what happens when communities or countries lose sight of the humanity of their adversaries. It brings out the worst of what we are capable of as human beings. Once we start down the road of dehumanization, we begin to justify all kinds of undignified behaviors toward the other side.
"What we come to believe is acceptable treatment of one another degrades not only our adversaries, but ourselves as well. Our righteous justification turns us into dignity violators.
"On the other hand, when we can rise above our basest instincts and see the actions of our adversaries in their true light, we not only honor their dignity but we also strengthen our own. That is what I saw on a news program when Gov. Christie was being interviewed during the worst of the hurricane. Instead of using his media time to criticize the president, he did the opposite: He praised him; he praised his leadership; he praised his humanity," Hicks wrote.
" ... After the shock wore off, what I felt when I heard Gov. Christie's interview was relief. Or was it gratitude? Was it a fulfillment of the longing to believe that our country was capable of good leadership? Or was it proof that under the worst of times, we are capable of so much more than we are when times are good?
"We may never know what happened to Gov. Christie that day or the reasons why he did what he did. But what we do know is that choosing the dignified path always leads to what's right," she wrote.
At the end of a bruising political season, let us banish shrill and divisive political discourse to the time-out corner if only long enough to acknowledge our common humanity.