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Some Election Night Thoughts

2004-11-03 - 7:21 p.m.

Sometimes it gets really dark.

Sometimes it gets dark in the aisles of the grocery store, under the florescent lights, when you’re looking through the cans of soup, trying to decide whether you’ll buy some cream of mushroom or some potato leek. You hold one can in your hand and you remember what you heard a few minutes ago, that there’s a man who has brought death to thousands of people, and that he is winning.

It gets even darker in the cookie aisle, reaching for the almond raisin cookies that you’ve grown addicted to, and you remember something far worse. You remember that every state that felt the need to speak to you took the time to say that you were not American, that your love would not be honored, that you would be denied access to the sacred because this is a Christian nation, and those are the times when you just want to run out of the store and start crying.

Because you can convince yourself—no, sorry, remind yourself—that there are millions of Americans who were taught to believe what a president said, who are very frightened for themselves and their children, who have decided that the president who is in office is the one who will protect them. You can square that with them, and with yourself. But then you think about state after said, person after person, voting to deny you the right to have your love, your family that you long for so badly acknowledged by the nation, and you can’t find anything in there but hate. What did you ever do to them?

Sometimes it’s so dark. Sometimes you don’t want to be with the people that you’re just getting to know, because you’re worried about breaking in half at the thought of that many Americans being okay with killing, being okay with hating you, and you can’t get your mom on the phone even though all you really want to do is go home and crawl into bed and be eight years old again and not care about all this, and you talk to your best friend for a few seconds and she never calls you back. You thank god for the living saint in your life who calls you up and makes you laugh. You wonder if you’d be able to make it through without her.

Sometimes it’s so dark that even brownie batter ice cream doesn’t taste that great. Sometimes it’s so dark that leaving the country isn’t a joke anymore, because it seems to be what the majority of people want. Sometimes you think about what it would take to get an MA and teach community college in Canada, where people are willing to acknowledge you as someone capable of starting a family, where people don’t take death so lightly as to rush off to war or deny their citizens health care. Sometimes you wish you could call up Jon Stewart for a whisky. Sometimes you wonder if you’ll ever feel at home in your country the way you did before disaster struck, and you realize you’re not thinking of an airplane crash.

Sometimes it gets really, really dark.

Sometimes, though, you park the car and decide to stay a little while to listen to Arundhati Roy, and she reminds you what it means to dream that you will live while you’re alive and die only when you are dead. It means, “To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar display of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.”

Sometimes you cry in your car because you don’t know how you can fight. You don’t know how you can hold onto despair and turn it into an arsenal. You want to let yourself die a little because, at the moment, living in the world hurts like Hell.

Then I got out of the car, and saw a man coming towards me on a mechanized wheelchair. I recognized him as the man who took my name at the polling place. I said hello and managed a smile. He said he heard that things weren’t going well, and asked me what the last count was. I told him that I hadn’t checked in a while, but the last time I checked it was something like 217 Bush, 199 Kerry, and that the remaining state looked like they were going Bush.

The man shook his head. “I just don’t understand it. Why do these people want to cast their vote for some . . . cracker?! I mean, John Kerry isn’t perfect but at least he’s an intelligent guy. This one . . . “

I frowned a little. Part of me wanted to say amen to that, and another wanted to just shake my head, but I needed to try and understand. “Well, I think that a lot of people have been taught to believe the government. I think a lot of people are scared.”

I don’t think he wanted to hear it. He asked me to help him with the door, and if you think that the heavy as Hell groceries gave me a single second thought about helping him, you don’t know me for shit. He asked again why these people would vote for him, and said, “He’s going to do so many awful things for the poor, for the disabled . . . “

“Yeah. I know.”

“He’s awful for the poor, for the disabled, for black, for gays . . . “

I smiled. “Honey, I was born Mexican, raised liberal, and figured out I was gay when I was sixteen, and I’m from Texas. I know how bad he is.”

He looked up at me. “I heard that in Texas the Democrats are Republicans and the Republicans are from another planet.”

I laughed and shook my head. “Oh no. Texas is full of Democrats who are liberals with a great sarcastic sense of humor. I was raised by them.”

“Like Molly Ivins and Ann Richards . . . well, Ann Richards”

“Yeah, Ann Richards has her problems. But I was lucky. There were a lot of great Texas liberals, especially in my family.”

He made his way into the building. He said to me, “We need to help each other.”

I agreed with him. I gave him my name, and he gave me his. He went to his apartment, and I went to mine.

Sometimes, it gets really dark, and you don’t know how you’re going to last the night, and then you remember that there are people who will stay up with you, people who need you to stay up with them. You stay up and you tell stories, and pass the bottles, and huddle together when it’s cold. You last the night for each other.

Sometimes, when it’s that dark, people will light candles, and in the darkness, they look like stars.

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