Tuesday morning couldn't come fast enough. The lead up had been intense, and I had become a willing victim to the multifaceted communication campaign leading up to the election. My intent was to take the opportunity of a day off work to sleep in, regroup and take full advantage of a day off. The not-so-subliminal messaging mediums of the importance of November 2nd had me up at 4:00am...again at 5:00...again, and completely, at 6:00. Nervously optimistic, I strode across the street to my polling location, heartened by the throngs of people waiting to cast their votes. Among them, the leader of the Gay Transgendered Combat Veterans group in heels and a fur coat, inquiring a little too loudly if everyone in line was there to oust Bush from the White House. I let out an involuntary grin while others murmured their assent. The line moved quickly, and before I knew it I was at a booth, filling in the blank circle as completely as I could in order to leave no doubt for myself or the election judges as to who my choice was. I was tense with conviction, hope and responsibility. I voted for the people that wouldn't. I voted for the people that couldn't. I voted for the people that would be ignored. And immediately afterward, I was awash in a sense of helplessness, waiting for others to decide what would be our fate as a nation. Unable to sit still, I drove to Bob's, eager for distraction. A paroled convict provided a loud commentary about his undocumented liberal opinion - his right to make it count revoked as a result of some unknown tresspass on order. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat, participating in preoccupied email conversations with friends. Blessedly, one showed up to save me, and we played cards for hours, went to a movie, did anything but talk about what we were thinking. By the time the sun went down, the chatter had ceased, leaving us in tense, uncomfortable silence. The polls started to close. We watched together for as long as we could, and I eventually found myself alone in my apartment, unable to look away from the television, realizing slowly that the unthinkable was, in fact, reality.
I learned the next morning, after 4 hours of half-sleep, that the motherfucker had worked out on his treadmill during the night, completely confident in his victory.
Maybe we were never so confident.
I arrived at work in a zombie-like trance, closed the door to my office, and cried. I heard about the concession, but I didn't listen to it. Couldn't. I haven't watched or read the news since then, but I know what they're saying. I know it was allegedly a "moral" vote, and the religious right has spoken. 51% of my countrymen believe that women are disposable shells for children, wanted or unwanted. At least 51% believe that "marriage" is exclusive to a certain kind of love. I'm supposed to feel defeated, removed, afraid, alone. But I don't.
We live in a country that is ruled, quite effectively, by fear. A nation divided, and now conquered, by the notion that the "others" shouldn't be allowed to disturb what life is supposed to be, as seen on TV. After 9/11, our president told a nation full of compassion and altruism NOT to rush to the aid of our fellow citizens, but to stay home, shop and be afraid. Keep to ourselves. He cut taxes to enable our consumerism and isolation. He allows the poor to become poorer, insisting that improving education will eliminate the need to raise the minimum wage. The poor get poorer. The rich get richer. The richer the rich get, the more they can ignore what's going on with the poor, distracted with buying power.
Buy this: it can't last. It won't last.
We're a nation hungry for community, desperate with our own sensibility and need for social justice, and taught to fear one another. It's against our human nature. We need each other now more than ever. We're all better off when we're all better off.
It occurred to me after the election to be angry at my fellow citizens, at the Democratic party, at those I felt had failed me. Then I reconsidered. I'm angry with George W. Bush. I'm angry with Dick Cheney. I'm angry at the media for failing to serve their function as investigators for truth. I'm angry, and I'll use it to fight for those who lost this election - not John Kerry and John Edwards - women; gay, lesbian and transgendered individuals; racial and ethnic minorities; the poor; the inner-cities; the children.
As I drove home last night, a group of people stood on the corner of Lyndale and Franklin holding signs bearing a single word: hope. HOPE. I'll add one more: ACTION. Do you feel the power of those words? Use it.