It's not about the house.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

There Will Be Tears

I’ve been pretty clear in this space about how I plan to vote in the election, but generally I haven’t written much about it, either way. There are plenty of other people who do that – most a lot better (and some a lot worse) than I ever could – and besides, who cares what I think about it, anyhow? But I spent the weekend in bed watching the first two seasons of The West Wing and getting a little teary-eyed, and it got me thinking. So here goes…

Johnny and I are heading down to Dr. One Friend’s house this afternoon. We’re going to drink beer (and other things) and eat pizza (and other things) and watch election results (and maybe, if I can convince them to change the channel for one itty-bitty hour, the Dirty Jobs Dirty Presidents Election Special). I’ve already warned them both that I fully expect to spend half the evening all verklempt no matter which way the winds decide to blow, and that they should feel free to ignore my tears. Also my sobs. I would hope, should I begin to actually choke on my chips & salsa, that one or the other of them will be kind enough to Heimlich me. But otherwise I trust I’ll be allowed to weep quietly (and not a little drunkenly) into my beer.

See, I love these United States of America, and I believe in them. Wholeheartedly. We are not a country so much as an idea of one – an ideal, if I may be so bold – and the reason we disappoint ourselves (not to mention the rest of the world) so bitterly, so consistently, is that we can only ever fail to measure up. It takes a whole lot of rocks to build a city on a hill, and the dang thing about rocks is, they have an annoying tendency to want to keep rolling back down. But we keep pushing. We might disagree with each other about which rocks to choose, which hill to climb, how to most sturdily stack them if we ever get there, but every time they roll back down, we dust ourselves off and start again. I love us for it.

Personally, I’ve supported losing candidates in all but two elections since I was old enough to cotton what one was. And yet I do not hold truck with the attitude (unfortunately prevailing in this blue state I call home) that “those people” who voted for the other guy are obviously dumb. I mean, it’s all well and good to sit in your losing corner, count your plums and congratulate yourself for all your cleverness, but the fact is: there are stupid people everywhere, on both sides of the political divide, in every country. Most people, in fact, are pretty fucking dumb. Most people cast their votes based on superficial, incomplete, or misunderstood information, and I’m not hubristic enough to think that I do not. Because (get this) nobody, not even (gasp!) the candidates, understands every single issue inside-out. If you think this isn’t true, if you think you, at least, are the exception, then may I gently remind you that Alan Greenspan – Alan Greenspan! – recently fessed up to forgetting to carry a particularly important two? Trust me folks, you don’t so much as begin to know even the half of all that’s going on.

So we each of us pick our issues, make our decisions based upon them, place our votes, and end up with the government that we deserve. If I tend to vote for the guy that seems the smartest – based on a few debates and a year or so of third-hand reporting – is that really any different, for better or for worse, than someone casting their vote based solely on who’d do what to Roe v. Wade? This time, to someone with a son in Iraq, the war may be the most important issue, while to someone whose house is about to be foreclosed upon, the economy may be the key. I don’t have a problem with any of this. It’s the (and it tends to be, unfortunately again, prevalent around here) the smugness that gets to me. People fortunate enough to base their votes purely on hypothetical theories and platforms – folks with nothing, that is, hitting so close to the bone as to hold sway with their emotions – seem to want special credit for showing up at all, and they tend to have special reasons all laid out why everyone who disagrees with them (or who, god forbid, votes in his or her own best interests) is too stupid and/or ill-informed to deserve the “privilege” of voting and should therefore probably just stay home.

I’m not going to pretend I haven’t made these jokes, or laughed at them. No, I’d rather you didn’t walk into the voting booth and flip a coin. Yes, I’d prefer you had at least some reason for your choice other than, say, the color of a particular candidate’s skin. But if we won’t (to carry that example) elect a man because he’s black, then that is who we are, and our government is designed to reflect that. When and if we become the kind of country who might elect a black man president, then you’ll know the day has come because we will. Until then, there’s just no sense pretending. So when it comes down to who deserves to get to vote, the answer is either A. everyone, or B. nobody. If you’re asking me, thanks very much, I’m choosing A.

And yet.

I am the only person I know who still defends the electoral college – which I do because this nation was founded as a constitutional republic and not (ahem) a popular democracy. The heartland matters – not least because those are the folks who disproportionately grow our food and staff our military, but also simply because they are a part of this country and they deserve a voice. No, the system isn’t perfect as it is now. Yes, if you divide popular vote by electoral college representation, then a single Wyoming voter counts for more (by a factor of almost 3:1) than a lone Bay Stater (although, interestingly, no one ever complains about Washington D.C.’s Wyoming-level representation when this argument’s presented). But if we did away with the electors then Wyoming wouldn’t count at all – and just ask a country like Turkey how well a de facto urban oligarchy works in terms of insuring domestic tranquility.

All of this is to say… what? Where am I? I was weeping and eating pizza and now I’m ranting about the electoral college? How did I get here? Oh. Okay. I remember. Right.

So how can I justify all this rah-rah, I-love-this-country-with-all-its-electoral-flaws folderol with my previously stated position that, should McCain win this election, Johnny and I will pull up stakes and move to Ireland? It’s really very simple:

I’m a hypocrite.

Well, hell. I am 39 years old. When Bill Clinton won in ’92, I was 23 and shocked. Having spent my entire cognitive life under Reagan/Bush, I truly did not believe that such a victory was possible. And in fact it’s very likely that if Clinton hadn’t won those two elections, I wouldn’t feel anywhere near as strongly as I do about this one before us here. But now that I’ve had a taste of what it can be like to roll one of my rocks all the way up that freakin’ hill and have it installed as the cornerstone of the White House, let me tell you: as far as I was concerned, I didn’t care how many interns he had taking shifts under the Oval Office desk. If that’s what it took for the leader of the free world to, so to speak, keep it up, then I was down. In fact, if he had put the call out, I would have been the first to volunteer.

And since I've gone down that road, I might’s well get this off my chest as well: if the Democrats weren’t so scared of Bill Clinton’s slick willie, they could have won it in 2000, too. Eight years of prosperity and relative peace, and Al Gore washed his hands of it for fear of Willie’s dick. I don’t blame the electorate for that, and I don’t blame the Supreme Court. I blame Al (and Tipper) Gore. I think it was a downright pussy thing to do.

On the other hand, 2004 made me feel eighteen again. In the sense that a George Bush was elected despite a shameful, possibly criminal record, against a boring liberal from my home state of Massachusetts, who got beat by a single TV commercial and a few bad photo ops. Turns out, I guess, you can go home again.

Which bring us to 2008, which has been going on since 2006. I was really annoyed in the early days, because it was assumed that I would vote for The Woman just because I am A Girl. (Oh, honey, I can say Girl if I want to. I am about twelve years past getting uppity about something as simple as vocabulary words. When I’m a girl, I am a girl, and when I am a Woman then you get out of my way.) But if this contest were about race or sex, we would have put up John Edwards – and then been shafted by a rogue John Thomas once again.

Honestly, for all the “most important election of our lives” talk that’s been happening these past few months, I don’t think of this November 4th as any different sort of race at all. It is another political race, is all it is, and it will, as they are all designed to do, take the measure of ourselves. Specifically: do we want to forge our 21st century city out of fire and brimstone on a hill of wrath and vengeance like Golgotha? Or do we want to build it on beatitudes?

If we choose the former – and I do mean “we,” even though I won’t be voting that way – then that will be fair enough. I won’t pretend the system failed, or that the obvious majority did not deserve their say. But I just might slip a wedge under my rock and take a break from pushing for a while. I know it’s weak and cowardly to cut and run. I know that every soldier counts in any army. But Johnny happens to own his mother’s house in Ireland and, now that we’re married, I could have dual citizenship if I lived there for a couple years. I always planned on doing it eventually. If we opt for Golgotha today, then now seems like as good a time as any for me to take that little break. Mostly because I can, and partly because I’m tired of defending people I disagree with, simply because it’s the only right and human thing to do.

But if we choose the latter. If we choose to, one more time, strive for a more perfect union. If we choose to put our trust in patience and diplomacy over defensiveness and fear. If we choose to declare another George’s Government destructive and once more lay down a new foundation in the name of Safety and Happiness. Well, then, I ain’t goin’ nowhere. Because even if we fail – which we are surely, inevitably, bound to do – I’d still give my left tit to take the ride.

For tonight, though, if you need me, I won’t be on Golgotha. I won’t be on Moriah or any other metaphorical, symbolic Mount. I’ll be down here in the foothills with a few people I love, in the garden, waiting, wide awake. I may not be sweating blood, exactly, but I guarantee you this:

There will be tears.


Audrey said...

E! That was the most fantastic post that you've ever written. It even brought tears to MY eyes and I'm too freakin' NERVOUS to be sentimental. I was saving all that until tomorrow and now you've spoiled it for me. Thanks. sniff sniff...

beardonaut said...

You were down? Does that mean you too were under that desk? For shame!

But jokes aside, it is an extremely critical election, and you have the eyes of the world on you. At least three different Swedish channels are sending live as the votes come in. I for one, am on your side. Though if you go to Ireland you need to make this blog about another house...

Courtney Miller-Callihan said...

This is, without question, my favorite post you've ever written. Thank you. And now I'm off to vote.

Unknown said...

Outstanding post! No matter who wins, and it better be Obama, you're the champ.

Meryl said...

Wow--this is exactly how I feel. Great post!

joanie said...

AB-SO-LUT-LY one of your best. Couldn't have said it better myself -or rather, I couldn't have said it that well myself and I'm sure glad you are able to put my thoughts into words!

Charlie said... one told ME about the tears.
beer - check
wine - check
alcohol - check
chips - check
salsa - check
dog treats - check
chocolate, pizza, coffee, soda, blankets - check, check, check, check and check...

no, no, I am afraid you are wrong, there ARE NO TEARS AT MY HOUSE!!!!!!!!!

Nikki said...

You dont know me. But I LOVE YOU!! And that is the best post ever--brought me to tears and out loud big laughs too!

jen said...

Im super excited about this post and about this election! I hope you can tell what with all the exclamation points and Cap Letters! Either way tonite is both critical and historical. I think Im gonna puke. Seriously. Im all in knots!

Cake said...

Wonderful post...I'm not even American and I feel like saluting the flag.

::goes back to watching CNN nervously::

Daisy said...

Wow, just watched McCain give it up. You know who woulda loved this post. Grampy Fergy... The perfect mix of intelligent, eloquent thoughts yet... You told the elitists that think that the rest of us are too stupid to form a sentence- let alone vote, to fuck off! But in a sort of nice way. Rock on EGE!