Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Day After

The calendar says November 3, but it feels more like Groundhog Day. I could swear this is a repeat of a morning in 2004, when I awoke to discover that my fellow Americans had ushered in a Republican Congress, defying all reason, logic and my own personal preference. Back in 2004, I dressed in black to mourn the occasion, which I've decided to eschew today because it's just not a good color for me. But the emotion remains the same.

I'm depressed.

I'm depressed by the mere existence of Republicans. I don't mean I want them to disappear off the face of the Earth. Some of these creatures are my family members and when they stop talking politics, I kind of like, possibly even love them. But I can't wrap my head around their thought processes, by their way of thinking that boils down to "I've got mine, too bad you didn't get yours." I don't quite understand how most of these people also consider themselves the sole keepers and bearers of the Christian flame. They can quote the chapter and verse that seems to prove God hates gays, but they can't remember "do unto others." They drive around with bumper stickers that wonder "What Would Jesus Do?" without contemplating that Jesus would never consider health care a privilege, as opposed to a basic human right. There's much talk about the need for the left and right to compromise, to come to the center, where most Americans reside. The thing is, while I agree that most of us have more in common than FOX and MSNBC would suggest, I would also argue that at the most basic level, Republicans and Democrats have such a fundamentally different approach to life--"me" vs. "we" if you will--that the gap is too wide for us to ever bridge.

I'm depressed that the young people who were so excited to vote in 2008 showed absolutely no interest in governing. They seemed to consider Barack Obama the electoral version of Lollapalooza--a really fun show--and supporting his legislative agenda the equivalent of canned peas. Distasteful. Which brings me to my next point.

I'm depressed that Americans are so ADD. A lot of us went to the polls in 2008 hoping for change. When that didn't happen the day after the inauguration, we started getting antsy. What the hell was taking so long? We wanted the stock market back at 13,000; we wanted everyone to have a job, even the people who were unemployed before the Great Recession; we wanted China and India to go back to being Third World non-powers; we wanted our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan yesterday; and if we could stop being so fat, well, that would be cool too. Never mind that change takes time. We don't have the patience. We're so used to flipping channels when we don't like what's on TV--and politics has become TV--that we don't understand you can't switch social movements on and off with similar ease. Because I'm convinced that I was supposed to be British, I can't help but think that the UK form of government might get us all to settle down a little bit. Four or five years between election cycles would give policies a chance to prove their merit--as it is, the ink was barely dry on the healthcare bill before opponents began talking about repealing it. These two-year cycles mean congressmen and women are in perpetual campaign, not legislative, mode. Everything is a posture, nothing is a real position.

I'm depressed because I have to look at and listen to John Boehner for two whole years. I'm suicidal at the thought of two more years of Sarah Palin, who was supposed to have gone away by now. John McCain may have lost the presidency but look at the devil he unleashed.

I'm depressed because "The West Wing" is off the air and I don't have an alternate political reality, where everyone is honest and idealistic and morally upstanding, to get me through the misery to come.

I'm depressed to think the people on the other side of the fence hate Barack Obama as much, if not more, than I hated George W. Bush.

But here's the thing: As much as the pundits and the Tea Baggers are all talking about last night's election as some sort of sea change, life for most of us will pretty much go on the same as it has for the past decade. Some of us have lost our jobs and homes, but most of us haven't. Whether the Congress leans blue or red, we'll still get married and divorced, have babies, watch football, hit the beach on a hot summer day, eat too much pie on Thanksgiving, run red lights, go to the movies, and pay too much attention to Charlie Sheen. The world wasn't coming to an end before last night; it's not coming to an end now.

At least that's what I keep telling myself.


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