Monday, November 08, 2004

The Parable of the Social Network Analyst

Here's a personal story with a moral at the end that may surprise you as much as it did me:

Last Tuesday was a big wake-up call for me. Living contentedly in some of the bluest of the blue territory, I counted Bush's 2000 election as a fluke that surely would not be repeated. But by Wednesday there was no doubt that Bush belonged in the White House.

Where did that leave us Massachusetts liberals?

After spending a day moping over that question, I pulled myself together with an electric realization. Why are the Democrats' populist aspirations increasingly marginalized to bicoastal intellectuals? Because they are not networking strategically. Clearly a growing chasm separates Reds from Blues, and if only the Blues could bridge the gap (with the help of social network analysis, of course) then the Democrats could win back the heartland.

I knew my theory rested on some big untested assumptions, so I started researching the latest demographics and other staples of the punditry. But regardless of what I was about to discover, I knew one thing for sure. There was no way the Republicans were going to win again, and I was going to use the science of social network analysis to help the Democrats take their rightful place at the top of the polls. In the famous words of Howard Dean, "YEEAAaahhh!"

Then I stumbled into church on Sunday. In a sermon entitled "What You Can Do For Your Country," Thomas Mikelson quoted from Lincoln's second inaugural address. Here are a few excerpts:

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it....

Both [sides] read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh."....

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Maybe my work in social network analysis has a higher calling than the downfall of the Republican Party? Yes, let's keep building community, bridging between Blue and Red not as warriors but as neighbors.


dillard said...

Amen, brother.

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