The word Hooloovoo has been floating through my head these past few historic days. I am proud to be living in a Blue State again, surrounded by other blue states. By blue people. (Hooloovoo’s are of course a super-intelligent shade of the color blue, a species of creature in Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.)
I’m not going to spout numbers, because I am not a statistician or a mathematician. I am an artist, a quilter, a photographer, an occasional writer and thinker. Therefore, I shall lay out only my thoughts and observations about the recent election. A topic that I consciously chose to avoid during the campaign. (Of course, my blog is so rarely and randomly updated that it would have been a pointless exercise.)
On the days (weeks, months, years) leading to Election Day, we were bombarded with chaos. Absolutely nonsensical rumors became Biblical fact by dinnertime in the minds of too many. On both sides, we saw chaos. Although the timbre and weight of the chaos that was spread by the Republicans, the fear-mongering that was displayed in a country that was designed around equality and liberty for all, a country which was to be inclusive and supportive to all who came to her shores, was pitiful.
The lack of caring for other humans, for those of the wrong religion, with the wrong shade of skin, for those less successful, and ultimately less capable of becoming successful, was in no way Christian to my way of thinking. (Then again, I may not be a Christian, according to some. I am merely Catholic.)
I lived within the shadow of the Statue of Liberty for the first 37 years of my life. I had in my public school Jews, Caucasians, Catholics, Hispanics, Buddhists, African-Americans, almost every other variety of Christian, Indians, Egyptians, and every shade of skin. We all co-existed. It was never an issue in my head that the simple virtue of a person’s skin could set them apart. I was raised on Democratic principles. My grandfather was a judge. (And we were a house divided between Yankees and Mets fans, in the interest of full disclosure.)
Yet on Tuesday, not even a week past, the rest of the country tuned in to my wavelength. My experience. (Ok, not mine alone. I’m not that special. Eight million currently call New York City home.) However, I live in a place where there are people who look at me with awe that I survived living there. They gasp when I tell them I’m thinking of heading to New York City for the weekend.
My husband arrived at our polling place directly after a graveyard shift, at 8:30 am. He called and told me the lines were long, but they moved them inside because of the pouring rain. He called back at something after 10 AM to tell me that he had been unaware that the school had so many corridors, that the lines were snaking back on themselves, and that he believed the entire student body of our local college was in line with him. He was going to fall asleep standing up so he stepped out of line and came home for a nap.
How exciting! How empowering to hear! The choice was going to be all the people’s voice. Our polling place is in a predominantly African-American area. It’s a lower socio-economic area. That is a fact. It’s not a racist thought. It’s not a class-ist thought. It’s the area where we vote, it’s close to where we live. I had not once waited on a line in the six years since we purchased our home. (And to think, all those college kids got themselves up and on line before class in the driving rain!)
I woke my husband from his nap around 2 PM, and we tried again. We walked to the school doors, and a young black man stepped out, gave us a huge grin, and told us, “I voted for the first time. I voted for president!” (As I type this, I still get chills) There was no line. We found the magic hour. I told Timmy I almost felt cheated.
One of the girls from work said at her polling place they were asking each voter if it was their first time. She said the girls in front of her said, ‘yes, it was,’ and the room erupted into applause! On the news, on the internet, in the chat rooms, I heard over and over of the millions of people who got up and dressed in the dark, hours earlier than the day before, who stood on line outside in rain, weather, cold, for hours to cast their vote before heading to their jobs.
And in Richmond on Tuesday night, the police reported— Nothing. They reported ‘No arrests were made and no force was required’. No fights, no riots, no chaos. Only that the large, well-mannered group of citizens ultimately found themselves standing in the dark outside Old City Hall singing the Star-Spangled Banner.
A barrier has been broken, and it wasn’t simply the barrier of race. The barrier was really fear. Why do we fear different? Human is human. Blood runs through all of us, we all need the same things to survive. (Air, food, water, shelter, love.) When a person denies being Muslim, why would you believe he lies, that others are telling the truth, and honestly, what does it matter? Do you know a Muslim? Do you know an African-American, or a Jew? A Hispanic? Is there a Catholic or LDS hiding there, right in front of you? How many people do you interact with on a daily basis who are gay or atheist?
The barrier was broken by the hard work of many, and by the sacrifices that Mr. Obama accepted. (Exposing himself and his family to hate, not being with his grandmother when she died.) There is a steadiness to Mr. Obama. There is no doubt a clear vision in his head. He senses equality to be a right. That doesn’t mean that we become the ‘dreaded’ Socialists with a Capital “S”.
No truer example of socialism is currently in effect in this country than in Alaska, where checks were cut for $3200 last year for each Alaskan. “And Alaska—we’re set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs. … It’s to maximize benefits for Alaskans, not an individual company, not some multinational somewhere, but for Alaskans.” Sarah Palin
But how can a compassionate human look at a poor child and think, ‘Well, you’re not my problem? Your parents should have known better than to have you before they were financially stable.’ (Applying that criterion would wipe out half the earth.) No, freedom isn’t free. There are costs involved. Many people can see the benefits for all of society down the road, even if the costs directly affect them in the moment.
Some people, they can see beyond fear. They can look around them and see themselves being the change, being the catalyst. Some people can see that as they are, things are broken. Some people, like Barak Obama, want to make the world a better place.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Proposition 8 is the thing that causes tears this week. That so many were able to overcome one fear, and replace it with another. (Maybe we need something to fear? For if we have nothing to fear, would we all have to get along?) It is another battle, and it will eventually fall. It’s for another year. It takes time to overcome irrational fears. Only 50 short years ago, President-Elect Obama would have had to sit on the back of the campaign bus.