This is how it goes.
Rainy day. Leaves falling.
It smells like fall, and you fucking hate fall.
No inquiries for new clients, even though September is usually your busiest month. You’re worried, and not doing a good job of hiding it. You love your life. You want it to continue.
Get up, brush teeth, feed the cats, listen to NPR. Your resolve to get done what you need to get done crumbles as you listen to the news of this old crumbling world, suddenly so, so old and crumbling at such a fast pace.
Go into town, get a bagel with peanut butter and jelly and chamomile tea at the nice café. Sit at the counter between two dudes. Read The New Yorker while you eat, because you know if you open your computer and start working on paperwork you will start reading websites about what’s happening, and you want to prolong that as long as possible.
The dude on your right – Jewish or Italian, undoubtedly from Long Island, Brooklyn or The Bronx, with a big Klinger nose and a deep Noo Yawk voice and a Westchester sweatshirt – starts chatting with the counter guy about economics, which he (hello college town) used to teach. Counter guy doesn’t really know what he’s talking about, but for some reason I do, and I jump in, saying that I see the problem being that we’re handing a ton (literally) of money to the very people who got us into this situation and expecting them to magically get us out of it with absolutely no regulation and then we have people like McCain who just months ago said he wants to “open up” health care exactly like he helped to “open up” the markets and…and the guy says, “Yeah, that’s a good point, but you know, that hasn’t passed yet, and I don’t think Congress is going to sell us out like that…”
And we start talking about it. And the guy on the other side – whiteness of an undetermined background, tall, family-man type dude, wearing a fisherman’s sweater and nice jeans – jumps in, and mentions that he has to go to Pennsylvania for work every few days, and he’s been putting in a few hours at Obama offices in whatever town he’s in, and he’s been making calls for Obama at home, and how we can do so too by getting lists from his website and making calls from home, and “they have special lists for women to talk to other women” and and and.
And it’s nice, because these dudes are the kind of blah Democrats that have good hearts and are honest mainstreamy late baby boomer dudes but aren’t exactly political in the way that you are political, and it’s nice to see them all engaged and shit. And it’s clear that they are educated, in a certain way, and smart, in a certain way, and trying really really hard to figure out the best way to save our country from McCain.
And you have things to add to the conversation – witty, educated, smart things – but they don’t really look at you when you’re talking, but you don’t really expect them to. They think of themselves as the experts and you as some random weird jaded girl chiming in because you’re sitting between them. You know this is partly because of patriarchy and party because you’re wearing striped tights and polka dot rain boots and your hair is up in two buns like Princess Leia. But when they do really hear what you’re saying, they agree, and look at you like they are so surprised you’d have something so nuanced and informed to say.
And they exchange cards and Italian Jew says it was great to talk to Family Man and then they are talking about how making calls and going to Ohio or Pennsylvania is the best way to serve their country, and about the greatness of America that we have to get back.
And then Family Man leaves and Italian Jew turns to you and says, kindly, that if you can become a little less jaded you will see that everything goes in cycles and this is the bottom of one cycle and soon things will turn around. And he starts telling you about how he’s separating from his wife and doesn’t get to see his kids as much as he would like and it was so great to have that conversation, because he’s been looking for something to do with his free time that will really make a difference, and he’s really going to go to Pennsylvania, maybe even tomorrow.
You tell him that you used to believe in the cyclical nature of the universe and politics too, because history has shown it to be true, but these days there are so many barriers that prevent everyday people from waking up to how they have been lied to that the theory doesn’t really hold up. To believe in the pendulum swinging the other way is to believe that people have some hope of seeing the truth in front of their faces and, even more unbelievable, acting on that truth. In actuality, the American middle class has shown itself to be so mind-blowingly stupid and manipulatable, so horrifyingly brainwashed with malls and television and idiotic jobs that there is very little chance they will ever wake up to see the horror their blindnesses have wrought.
And he said “Naw, no way, listen -” in that Noo Yawk no-offense-taken way that you like so much because it allows you to speak your heart without everyone getting all offended, and he starts telling you why there’s hope, and blah blah.
In time he packs up his things and leaves, and you just stare at him on the way out. His hope astonishes you. All his optimistic talk about Florida and Ohio and Pennsylvania – you didn’t have the heart to talk to him about stolen elections and Diebold and and and.
This battered man – separating from his wife, missing his kids, truly thinking about what is best for his country while at this crossroads in his life – he has hope and optimism and excitement for the future.
You have a lovely relationship with your partner, a great business, wonderful friends, sweet cats, a beautiful house, a horrible family you blissfully ignore with the exception of a mother you adore – and you have nightmares about apocalypse, flood waters, drained bank accounts, shocking violence, sickening cruelty, global annihilation. You wake up and the nightmares go away and your days are fine. Your life is fine. But the worry is always there.
I hope he does go to Pennsylvania.
My partner and I went there four years ago, on the eve of another election. What we saw terrified us. We didn’t like Kerry, but we went with MoveOn to motivate voters for Kerry. For two freezing cold days we went door to door in a sickening subdivision of cardboard McMansions and made sure Democrats knew where their voting place was, and did they have a ride (of course they had a ride, they had cars jammed onto available bit of pavement)?
The stupidity about the basic electoral processes by which our country supposedly functions was disgusting. On the day of the election, one woman said that her six-year-old boy had had an “election” in their class. “So, do I still need to vote? I mean, their election doesn’t count – right?” We just stared at her, then I slowly said, “Ummm…no.” We walked down the driveway, holding hands, trying not to trip over the plastic toys all over the yard. We checked her off our list. We didn’t talk for a long, long time.
That night we stood and checked off voters as they went into the voting booths, wearing our red MoveOn armbands and eyeing a whole pack of Bush voters with pasty skin and nasty sweatpants as they did the same for the Republicans. (When I checked in with the BOE people as an election volunteer, the woman had me spell my name about fifty times, then said “Well, you can translate for the Spanish people.”)
As the night went on and the news became that Kerry was going to win so easily (as we all know that he did), the Bush voters got mean. I had an awesome and decidedly-not MoveOn-approved fight with an Evangelical Bushie who kept trying to prove to me that he was a good person because he could quote so much of the Bible. I told him the Bible was a book of fairy tales that might be enjoyable as a work of fantastic fiction, it didn’t have any relevance on everyday life, and away we went. He kept challenging me to quote even one Bible verse, and I started screaming about TURNING THE OTHER CHEEK and CASTING THE FIRST STONE and THE MEEK SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH and anyway I was a FUCKING ATHEIST JEW, and we weren’t even supposed to know the goddamn Bible, and it was probably around then that my sweetheart had to physically pull me away.
And sometime around midnight we drove home, and on the drive home the radio started reporting Bush winning, in contrast to all exit polls and all early vote counts and reality.
I have no hope, I hate what America has become, and I am fucking terrified.