Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Extremely Important & Incredibly Serious

This is a picture of my wife and I walking back from our voting location, United Methodist Hospital. At 6:30 AM her alarm went off, I rolled out of bed to make coffee, and we got dressed and lined up at 7:05 AM. The concerned citizens who believe in expressing themselves as to the governance of this nation (at least, those who wanted to vote before going to work) were streaming out the front door, across the parking lot, and down the sidewalk. In a district north of me, voters were lining up outside Ballantine VFW, winding around the building and extending fully down the block. I almost joined that VFW, I qualified by fighting in Panama, but they doubled their rates at a time I was completely broke.

I dressed up as Uncle Sam and Rebecca dressed as the Statue of Liberty. These were from our Hallowe'en costumes, except we were zombified for Hallowe'en. A sort of semi-edgy, infer-for-yourself political statement, as far as that goes. Today we were just patriotic (and getting a little more mileage out of these costumes: they weren't cheap). As we approached the line some people began to cheer and clap, and we waved back and thanked everyone for turning out to vote. More people still flipped out their cell phones to take pictures. Rebecca uploaded this shot of us to the Star Tribune Web site; I uploaded it to Open Salon and my article about it made Editor's Pick.

Twenty-five minutes later our votes were cast. We changed clothes, I drove her to work and started grocery shopping for the night's party, got the apartment cleaned up. We invited friends and family to celebrate (we hoped) with us as we followed the election. I remember four years ago when Bush was about to steal another election, I stayed up all night and blogged (in accounts that no longer exist) my fury at Alaska for being so stupid as to re-elect him. I stayed up all night and followed the election, stayed up later to news reports of recounts and tampering, and maybe I passed out from exhaustion before a president was decided. But Bush rigged that election in the end and then gloated that "the people have spoken." Shameless.

So much more the surprise, then, when everything wrapped up around 11:00 PM last night. After a boisterous evening of adults, little kids, beverages, food on the grill, etc., I was checking the voter results in each state when my friend Molly yelled that he did it, it's been announced. All attention snapped to the TV and we watched an audience cheering its heads off. We cheered, too.

Today I saw a slide show of people all around the world celebrating our election. Grinning in Kenya, hollering in Australia, drunk and passed out in London, cheering in Japan, dancing in Iraq, a slight, shy smile in France (they do what they can), everyone around the world was with us in that moment. America wouldn't have to hang its head for the next four years. Healing could begin. All the news articles I've read from different countries have been written with tentative disbelief and nascent positivity. It's like Stephen Colbert said, "I don't know what to do with my happiness. I'm still afraid someone's going to take it away." I feel that too: something so important, something I've wanted so badly (I even went canvassing this weekend, as nervous and shy as I was) has come into being. Part of me is waiting for the other boot to drop, whether it's the Republicans demanding a recount or some splinter faction assassinating our last hope. We need this so badly, the world needs this, that we can't afford to lose it.

I listened to McCain's graceful concession speech, how he pleaded everyone to unite as a nation. And the audience booed him, because those racist, homophobic, materialist hypocrites with which he aligned himself aren't interested in unity, they want to subjugate anyone who is not among them. They don't want healing, they want dominance. They believed the propaganda and lies all throughout the campaign, even in the face of incontrovertible truth and facts, because they aren't interested in what they have to accept, they're focused on what they want to exist.

That's why I couldn't believe anyone was still "undecided." I couldn't believe anyone could look at Harry Potter and Voldemort and be unable to commit to a decision. I could not wrap my head around the fact that someone could look at Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader and say, "Well, I dunno... it's just so hard to say, you know? They're really close and neither one of them is absolutely perfect."

But beneath them, lower down the food chain, are two encampments. Beneath the liver flukes and serving less function than phytoplankton, there are two classes: those who are too lazy to vote, and those who show up and write in joke names on the ballot. I want to take those people and bring them to one of the many nations where our forces have carpet-bombed a village or cured impoverished nationals of ravaging diseases, or some nation that we can't touch, filled with a people starved for justice at the hands of an outside influence, someone who can meet their government on a level they are unable to, and I want these jokesters to look them in the eye and say, "Eh, my vote wouldn't have made a difference," or "I thought it would be funny to vote for Bart Simpson."

The former group is like someone in one end of a sinking boat. Everyone else is bailing water but that one person says, "It's not sinking on this end. I'm fine. Anything I do wouldn't make a difference anyway."

The latter is like someone playing with their food in front of a starving person.


Alexis said...

The other boot is the slap in the face to gay rights that happened yesterday. I'm still puzzled as to how these things could occur simultaneously: Our first non-white President, the reversal of a Supreme Court decision to allow gay marriage, the prohibition of gays adopting homeless children; very unsettling to me, despite the massive milestone that was reached. I'm actually contemplating canning my column this week to write an opinion piece on why this is the last acceptable discrimination. We all know the Leviticus argument holds no water, we even know that gender identity is determined biologically, so why is it still okay to deny civil rights to people who weren't born heterosexual?

Christian said...

I was heartbroken when Obama and Biden stated they were not in favor of gay marriage, but part of me hopes that they were just saying that to get in the door. There are some positions a candidate can state frankly and remain in the running; there are others that would be career suicide, however noble the cause. It is my hope that, now that they've taken office, they will begin easing the restrictions and working on changing people's minds on the matter. I have a hard time believing/accepting that Obama, in his heart of hearts, is opposed to gay marriage.