I know it’s probably just the chocolate talking—endorphins, you know—and that it’s 2AM and I always have this weird manic energy at this time of night, but…I feel kind of ludicrously good right now.
It’s not just because my truffle batch is going so splendidly (2 AM is a perfectly reasonable time for me to be finishing work, believe it or not), it’s not just because today was so mild and beautiful outside, it’s not even because I got my teeth cleaned and the hygienist actually paid me a compliment about my “home care” (roughly translated: “Your teeth aren’t as horrifyingly rotten as last time, have you actually been flossing?”)
No, I’m in a good mood because I heard Ralph Nader speak today, and the good revolutionary lefty vibes are still coursing through my body. Dearest late night Internet world, have I ever told you of my deep love for Ralph Nader? Did you know that we share a birthday? We do, and though I don’t believe in astrology, I believe that Ralph Nader and I have a psychic bond, for sure.
Psychic bonds aren’t why I voted for him twice though. I voted for him because he represents my values, and because I have this fucked-up belief that you’re supposed to vote for the person whose values most closely match your own.
Though it has been explained to me by roughly twelve zillion people, I’ll never understand people who don’t vote according to their belief system and hearts but instead vote based on irrational concepts like “electability.” Nader represents what I believe in, so I voted for Nader. Simple, right? You’d think so, but it seems to infuriate some people when I mention it. I admit that my decision is made easier by the fact that my state is an easy Democratic win, leaving me free to “safely” vote my conscience. But I’d like to think I would have voted for Nader even if I lived in Florida or Ohio.
This year I’ll be voting for Cynthia McKinney, the Green Party candidate, because she too represents my values, and also because if she gets 5% of the vote the GP will get millions of dollars in federal funding. Nader said nice things about Cynthia today, you’ll be pleased to know. He was asked his opinion of her and he said that he liked her, and that he encouraged people to donate money to her campaign, and that though she was a good candidate unfortunately the Green Party “couldn’t organize itself out of a paper bag.” Though nationally and in NY State generally this is true, it is most certainly not the case in New Paltz, and I yelled this out, being as I am the nominal head of the New Paltz Green Party. Nader smiled and said he was happy to hear that.
Can I repeat that? Ralph Nader smiled at me!
Still, I’m not sure why listening to Nader made me feel better about the world. The picture he paints of the political system obviously isn’t rosy, and since I trust his point of view completely I should rightfully be depressed. Did you know that over one million Iraqis have been killed as a result of our illegal occupation of their country? And did you know that if that number was represented proportionally in the US, over fifteen million people would have died? And that’s not even mentioning the fact that a quarter of the Iraqi population are now refugees. And I wish I could believe that an Obama government would help this situation, but unfortunately I don’t believe he will do much good. (It’s beneath me to comment on how much ill a McCain presidency would inflict.)
Nader’s trip to New Paltz was supposed to be a quickie press conference, so he only took questions from the press. Some idiot reporter from some paper I can’t remember agreed that the Bush strategy in Iraq had resulted in unnecessary loss of lives, and asked if Nader “felt responsible” for those lives because of “the spoiler effect.”
I couldn’t help myself. I yelled out, “check your facts, dude!” because I was horrified by the fact that eight years on we still had to deal with this bullshit, and because I figured Nader would be too polite to properly scream at him. Happily, I was wrong, and Nader told him he should be ashamed of the question. He gave a wonderful answer, one I felt sad to think he’s had to give probably hundreds of times, all about how the world “spoiler” is political bigotry and about Florida and Ohio and the Supreme Court and Gore’s campaign and who the real spoilers are and about democracy, and I won’t go into the specifics because no one reading my blog would seriously think Nader had anything at all to do with Bush getting elected or reelected, right? I didn’t think so.
But even this annoyance didn’t sink me into political depression. I already knew pretty much everything Nader talked about, so it didn’t depress me too terribly to hear it again. In fact, it was good in the way that having your own views parroted back at you makes you feel right and just and sane.
The whole thing made me feel just that, actually: right, and just, and sane. On the right path. I was almost radiantly, weirdly happy to be in a too-small room on a glorious afternoon in October listening to someone with courage and a heart and a brain—think about how rare and magical that combination is!—tell me things I already knew. I was surrounded by friends and frenemies (small town + the notorious liberal love of infighting + my own incorrigible habit of turning friends into enemies = frenemies at every turn at all political events), good solid thinking people and a sprinkling of typical upstate some-people’s-minds-are-so-open-their-brains-have-fallen-out hippies with replete with the requisite balding ponytails and threadbare tie-dye t-shirts. All in all, a fine crowd.
While Nader was admonishing us not to take it anymore (being owned by corporations, all that), I closed my eyes for a minute and felt myself in the world.
I felt my bones wrapped in my skin and my skin wrapped in my clothes, everything tidily settled onto a hard bench in a Quaker meeting room. I felt my hair in its rare freshly-washed glory. I felt my journal on my lap, my pen in my hand—my complete person completely in that room, in this town, at this time in history.
It sounds hideously sappy, but I felt so incredibly proud to be on the same side as Ralph Nader. I felt incredibly proud to be the kind of person who takes a side, to be honest. I couldn’t muster up the despair that lives beneath the surface of my political convictions today. Autumn air, a growing nervous happiness that maybe we won’t be stuck with the absolute worst president available this time around, and the knowledge that people like and including Ralph Nader are still existing and chugging along.
Here’s the thing I was thinking while listening: there is always an undercurrent of righteousness, no matter how bleak things seem on the surface. The underground railroad, the French resistance, all that. I take so much heart from that knowledge. What did MLK say? “The arc of history is long, but it points toward justice.” I said that to a friend of mine in 2003 when this useless war was just beginning, and she said that MLK was a milquetoast mainstream leader to whom too much has been attributed, and could I think of even one example that would prove that point? I mumbled something about slavery ending and she started talking about little African boys being sold into slavery to pick chocolate after their parents are told they are going away to school, and I mentioned Gandhi and Indian independence, and she mentioned Pakistan and nuclear arms….anyway, I want to be optimistic tonight. We have made some progress on this long slow slog through history, right? At least we pretend to abhor slavery, at least we pay lip service to the idea of liberty and all that.
We’ve still got Ralph Nader, that’s what I’m trying to tell you. And that’s not nothing.
My cat Cleo is resolutely asleep on and in my arms as I write this, having a dream that is making her twitch and bat at invisible prey. My typing hands don’t seem to bother her. She pretty much does whatever she wants, and if she wants to sleep in my arms she will do so no matter what my hands are doing. It’s not ideal, but she’ll make it work, because she knows what she wants and she knows how to hammer away at getting it.
I know how she feels.