One Psychiatrist’s Fantasy Post-Election Prescription: A Giant National Block Party

The block party the author wants is much, much bigger than this. (Fred Dunn/Flickr)
The block party the author wants is much, much bigger than this. (Fred Dunn/Flickr)

The most surreal thing about this morning is that I want exactly the same thing today as I did last night.

I want a block party.

And I want that block party to refuse to acknowledge blocks.

I want a big ol’ potluck that has all sorts of food, bowls and plates and pitchers of drinks that crowd the table like an old growth forest.

I want mashed potatoes and waffles and black coffee and masala tea. I want dim sum and tamales and hummus with olives. If you crave meat, don’t worry. There’ll be meat. If meat isn’t your thing, there will be tofu galore.

I want the seats to all look the same, and I want the weather to be nice, and I want my kids to get to know the other kids at the table and I want to shake hands with neighbors and I want those neighbors to be people I’ve never met and would never have met if not for this grand and garish gathering.

And there’s a big sign.

Did I mention that yet?

A big sign that would hang over this crowded table, a table, while we’re at it, that would be ginormous and round and not rectangular, and that would stretch from coast to coast. A table that would bend and contort from the Gulf of Mexico to the mountains of Montana, a polished cherry oak platform, a massive thing, floating along in the Pacific from Hawaii to Guam, and then back to the mainland and up each of our coasts...from Alaska on one end to Aroostook County at the other...the Badlands of North Dakota to the dusty riverbeds of south Texas.

I am not envisioning a subtle to-do.

It’s, like, really, really big.

This sign, the one over this big table, this table to which every single person who lives in this country has been invited and perhaps even mandated to attend, would say only one word:


That’s all.

Just “enough.”

You should know that I toyed with a different sign:

I was going to have a giant cornucopia and in red block letters proclaim that “This isn’t the Hunger Games.”

But that is so not the mood that I want for my party. (It’s my party. I can do what I want to…)

I want my block party maybe more than I’ve ever wanted anything other than the health of my family, and if people want to pray before they eat, that’s fine. If people want to start eating, that’s also fine.

No Twitter at this block party. No tweets.

I have a penchant for scary stories, but lest you should worry, know this: This party is exactly what it seems. It isn't a Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” The irony of that story is too raw right now.

No Facebook at the table.

Or Snapchat.

Or even YouTube.

No smartphones at all. (It turns out that they’re not all that smart.)

There will be no “likes” at this block party. No emojis. No evites, and no commercials for luxury cars.

We will break bread together. And if conventional bread isn’t your thing, then I promise an endless supply will be gluten-free. We’re not having that argument at this party either.

I want us to tell stories about our children, and to learn songs about our families, and I want us to check in with each other about how our parents are doing.

I want us united and resolved.

I want us to know each other’s names.

I want to recommend desserts to strangers, and I want strangers to recommend desserts that I’ve never before tasted.

If we can’t make this thing work with words, then we’ll work it with music. We’ll have a big ol’ playground and we’ll just sit there and listen to our children laugh.

And we’re going to stay at this block party until the sun comes up.

And then we’re going to do the same thing again and again, for as many times as it takes.

We have so much more in common than we think.

We have so much more in common that we even know.

And here’s the thing: I think it’s time that we started to know.

Dr. Steve Schlozman is associate director of the MGH Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds. He's also assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He tweets @SSchlozman.



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