Stephen Colbert assumes role of ‘national conscience’ to push for healing (VIDEO)

The video of the late-night comic and practicing Catholic’s post-election comments to promote solidarity continues to go viral today, but does he succeed?

Stephen Colbert Signs Off on the 2016 Presidential Election | Live Election Night | SHOWTIME | Youtube

The presidential race was crazy. I think we can all agree on that. It started crazy, kept getting crazier and ended on a historically crazy note: Donald Trump winning when everyone, including some on his own staff, thought there was no way he could.

Trump’s victory shocked everyone—even his supporters. And perhaps no one demonstrated that shock as openly as Stephen Colbert during his Election Special on Showtime. Colbert, a left-leaning comedian, expected the election would end as most of us did: with Hillary Clinton as president-elect. But many polls had it wrong. It didn’t turn out that way, and as such, the show felt disjointed and deeply uncomfortable at times.

But as the evening was winding down, Colbert set aside his role as comedian and tried to pick up another: that of a healer; a nation’s conscience. Colbert, a practicing Catholic, saw an opportunity in these last minutes of election night—and the first minutes of post-election America—to use his platform and his well-honed skills as a comic and writer to try to bring the country together.

In this clip, he crept close to what made Will Rogers famous nearly a century earlier. (Caution: The language can get pretty foul at times.)

“How did our politics get so poisonous?” Colbert asks. “I think it’s ’cause we overdosed. Especially this year. We drank too much of the poison. You take a little bit so you can hate the other side. And it tastes kinda good. And you like how it feels. And there’s a gentle high to the condemnation, right?”

I think Colbert’s right. I think that, in these (important) arguments over policy and purpose, we often lose sight of one another’s humanity. We forget that, while we may differ on how to get there, we all want, essentially, the same thing: for America to be a nation we can be proud of.

MORE TO READ: The funny faith of Stephen Colbert

Colbert’s Catholicism likely informs his take. “Politics is a lot of horse racing and horse racing is gambling and gambling is, according to the Bible, a sin,” he says. “Because it itself is a poison. Worrying about winning and not what the consequences of winning is.”

But maybe he, and we, can take solace in our faith—whether our side won or lost. Our faith is predicated on a paradox itself, on a death that gave life. Perhaps the most heated, hateful, controversial election of our time may eventually lead to healing. Reconciliation. Hope.

Paul Asay
Paul Asay
Paul Asay is a movie critic for Plugged In and has written for a variety of websites and publications, including Time, The Washington Post and Beliefnet.com. He’s authored or co-authored several books, including most recently Burning Bush 2.0: How Pop Culture Replaced the Prophet.

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