DisasterTwo nights ago I was so full of hope. I stood outside at night on my roof, smoking a cigarette, looking at the city skyline and thinking, tomorrow, it all changes; tomorrow everything will be different. Will be better. I felt it welling in my chest. I felt like we were on the cusp.
I worked this time. I gave money. I argued: for Kerry, against Bush, against Nader. I sported stickers and buttons and signs. Yesterday we worked the phones. Hours spent on the cell phone, calling Florida, calling Wisconsin, calling Ohio. Again and again I heard the same refrain I've already voted. I voted for Kerry. Let's change the country. Thank God, it's nearly over. It's finished. And I looked at the exit polls. And I hoped. And I believed.
And then last night, at the Edinburgh Castle, I watched the returns start to come back. Laughing it off at first, and growing concerned as the night went on. Florida still in play. We couldn't hear CNN over the din of the crowd, who cheered and jeered the results as they came crashing in from around the nation. Back to Jeff's, who lived nearby, where it came down to Ohio. Back to our house, where we settled in for a long wait, and began to count.
And as we counted, the grim gruesome realization welled up. All is lost! Harper went silent, morose. Online I chatted with friends. Most shared my sense of unnerve. Some were flippant, joking. I couldn't see any humor. Disgusted. One friend told me his girlfriend was in tears. Another was utterly dejected, and scared for what the next few years might mean.
By the time Edwards spoke, late into the night even here in California, I had given up hope for foreboding. For doom. The networks said Bush had declared victory. Dan Rather, still prattling at 4 a.m. in his time zone, seemed to have gone into shock and denial. As Ed Bradley patiently explained the votes, twice, Rather seemed unwilling to accept reality. I went to bed hoping for a miracle.
On my drive to Santa Clara this morning, my dreams were shattered.
What I fear is not Bush. Not so much. Were it Bush alone, I would be pessimistic, true. But not scared. Not alarmed and unnerved, the way I am now. But it isn't just Bush. It's the Senate. It's the House. It's--God help us--it's the Supreme Court. It's a devastating blow to not only the Democratic Party, but to everyone in America who doesn't believe in the Republicans' social and economic agenda. To everyone who thinks the world is becoming a more dangerous place, and demands something other than fundamentalist ideology to sort it out.
So, goodbye John Kerry. Goodbye safe and legal abortions. Goodbye ANWR. Goodbye civil liberties, civil rights, civil unions and civility. Goodbye to live and let live. Goodbye to the environment. Goodbye to science. Goodbye to rational discourse and the separation of church and state. Goodbye to the America I have always known. Goodbye to hope.
What comes next will be something different, something completely unknown to me. Unknown to everyone. A new nation, practically. In the total control of religious zealots, war profiteers, oil men, incompetents and rubes. The greedheads and fearmongers have won. It's their nation now.
And I never saw it coming. I never knew.
How did I become so out-of-touch? Is this really what America has become? This is really how people feel? How could this have swung so wide, without my ever having a clue? Should I have known?
The only time, in the last two or three months, when I wasn't confidant, was after a trip to Kentucky. Visiting the heartland, I thought that maybe Bush would have Kerry licked. For there I spoke with a large number of people more concerned with feelings than facts. Maybe I should have seen that this was the state of the nation in total. We don't care that there were more terrorist attacks last year. We don't care that the economy is in the shitter. We don't care that Saddam had no WMD. We feel threatened by this changing world. We feel threatened by terrorism abroad and wide-ranging social changes at home. We feel threatened by the ways the mores of the nation have changed in our lifetimes. For all these reasons, Bush makes us feel safe.
When I was young, growing up in Alabama, I used to look at Californians, New Yorkers and city kids everywhere, and think they don't really have a clue. They don't know what the nation is really like. From fashion to values to perceptions, I thought these people were out of touch. Until, that is, I began to grow out of touch myself. Until I began to change myself, and began to feel increasingly out of step with the world. This changed in California. Here, I felt familiar. And I took it for granted that the whole world felt the same. The whole nation. I looked at the advent of the Internet as the great equalizer. The Information Superhighway would not only connect us all, but cause us to share the same values. The same concerns. I was wrong.
I was, apparently, more out of touch than ever. I didn't watch the right news. I didn't listen to the right radio stations, read the right magazines. I wasn't on message.
In a few minutes, Kerry will address the nation. He will concede defeat. But I concede nothing. There will be a lot of talk about moving to Canada in the coming days. About moving to Europe. Nothing could be further from my mind. I love this country too much to surrender it. I love it enough to fight for it, whatever that takes. I hope you do too.
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