Wednesday, November 3 2004
At some point in the middle of the night I couldn't sleep, partly because of the configuration of the animals on the bed. So I went down to the basement to sleep in the first guest room (the one with sliding doors out to the newly-resurfaced slab). Something kept me from checking the latest situation regarding the election. I had an increasing feeling of dread, though I'd received no additional information about what was going on. In the guest room bed I experienced difficulty falling asleep. For a time I even felt like I might throw up. It might have been last night's tequila that was making me sick, though I suspect part of it was a sickness about the future of my country. Short of death, is there a higher expression of patriotism?
Later in the morning the sun was streaming in through the sliding doors out to the resurfaced slab and I remember thinking, "My, the phone's awfully quiet." It seemed that if there was any good news to be shared nobody would be respecting our widely-known penchant for sleeping in.
Finally I scraped myself out of bed. My head was throbbing from the tequila and my brain wasn't firing on all cylinders. (I'm convinced that a tequila hangover depresses IQ by about thirty points.) I moved the mouse of the computer in the office off the kitchen and it instantly snapped out of power saving mode, the lighting of the display pixels descending from the top like a cheap plastic blind. In a font size I'd never seen before, the recently-autorefreshed homepage of the New York Times proclaimed "BUSH HOLDS LEAD." I could see that Ohio was still in a neutral color indicating it was "up for grabs," but Florida was red. Most of the Gore's states were blue, but the situation in Ohio didn't look promising. In the course of about fifteen seconds I went from thinking Kerry might win to resigning myself to four more years of America's worst presidency. That's a dump truck load of bad news to absorb, and the psychological damage was immediate. I experienced the kind of anguish one feels when a member of the family unexpectedly dies or when one's heart is broken. It was a huge loss, four years of the best part of my life to be reigned over by a smug little ignoramus and his faith-based henchmen. At the earliest, I'll be 40 years old when this nightmare finally ends. It was small consolation that there were 58 million other people (rich, poor, famous, infamous) commencing their torment along with me.
Oddly, though, it actually helped that I also happened to be suffering from a hangover. This gave me a genuine physical explanation for my misery and the hope of a timely improvement.
First, though, I had to break the black news to Gretchen, who was still in bed. Suffice it to say, she didn't take it well. As the news sunk in she couldn't help herself and started making these horrible anguished cries. Oh the embarrassment, for our country to have endorsed this maniac! Her immediate desire was to get the fuck out of the country and just be somewhere else where people go about their business in peace without being ruled by one of the worst leaders democracy has ever produced. It wouldn't even matter if their leader happened to be a despot, so long as he/she was a rational one (and preferably vegetarian).
We live in a world saturated with information, and it was impossible to keep our minds off the national tragedy that was unfolding. Gretchen kept sending and receiving email about the political situation as it was absorbed by her friends. Everybody throughout the reality-based community was in a state of shock, terrified that democracy (at least the American version) could fail so spectacularly. All it takes is a little fear of foes foreign and domestic (towel heads and queers) and our great experiment in Enlightenment ideals crumbles into a one-party crypto-fascist dystopia. Whatever happened to democracy's supposed powers of self-correction? Who really wants to be in this airplane when it is finally jerked up out of its nosedive?
Worse, perhaps, than this spectacular failure of the Enlightenment was what it meant for the future of the United States of America. A grim, intolerant nation that places more value on "faith" and "values" than facts and creativity is doomed. This is the competitive disadvantage that all totalitarian nations face. In a less extreme example, this phenomenon partly explains the difference in property values between San Francisco and Buffalo. This is basic economics, something Republican claim to place before all else. There's no money in beating up the queers.
But for today's Republican strategists, it's never been about the future, it's always been about this particular election. They're content to eat their seed corn if it means they'll win Mis Fat American in next week's pageant. This Republican victory is the will of a bare cobbled-together majority comprised of the frightened and the willfully ignorant. It's a coalition of the weakest minds in the country. They're the victims of one of the largest and most blatant con jobs in the history of the world. Back when I stood on Flatbush Avenue watching the smokey pale of Manhattan and the emergency vehicles rushing firemen to their doom, I imagined a future of fear and fascism stretching out beyond the historical horizon, and I view this election in that context. But even after today I have confidence that one day all will be spectacularly revealed. What else do I have? It's the closest thing to a silver lining that the overcast sky of today can offer.
It wasn't just the election results that made today one of the worst in recent memory. I had a housecall in Kingston again, at the home of a woman who had apparently been sold some sort of lavish tech support plan for her new computer. Along with this it had come complete with a flatscreen monitor and a fancy video capture card. I'd been summoned by her tech support provider for a second housecall related to her inability to dial in to AOL. On my first visit I'd replaced her modem. Today I was there to replace the motherboard.
I could tell that this client was the sort of person who likes to spoil herself with expensive gifts, because she also had an enormous big screen teevee taking up most of her living room. The latter was on continuously, starting with Oprah and moving on to spectacle-rich local news. Today, though, local news had been replaced by the arrogant strutting of the freshly-reelected president. I was suffering through the late afternoon peak of my tequila hangover and having no luck getting her computer to connect to AOL, even with its brand new motherboard. While I was on hold with tech support I heard the hated voice of our commander in chief coming from both the big screen television and a radio in the kitchen that had been playing smooth pop music from the late 70s. Normally-scheduled programs were evidently being preempted to bring us the barely-concealed gloating of George W. Bush. I had to shove a finger in my non-telephone ear or I swear I would have puked.
Kathy (left, with her dog Murphy) and Gretchen hanging out in the living room tonight. One of my socks is in the foreground.
This evening Kathy from the Catskill Animal Sanctuary came over for a dinner Gretchen had baked an entirely vegan meal featuring a delicious meatloaf made from the meats of faceless nuts. We drank wine in front of the fire and talked about the darkness of the day and the bleakness of the future. Nobody bothered to speak of silver linings. But the wine quickly dissolved my hangover, a psychological improvement that my brain interpreted to be the end of my funk.
At some point today I suggested to Gretchen that the blue states which had gone to Kerry should unify with Canada and leave the idiots of Redneckistan behind in their dreary wood-paneled ranch-style homes to form their own banana republic where they can cut taxes, teach Creationism, burn witches, and stone adulterers to their hearts' content. I wasn't the only one to have this idea, as demonstrated by the following map that Gretchen forwarded to me.
Note the similarity between this map and the one I drew of Redneckistan back in 2002.
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