Thursday, November 04, 2004

what we do now

This post, of course, started very differently. When I was thinking about it yesterday morning, after hearing that Kerry had conceded, there was a real rant quality; there was a lot of how dare they and how the hell did this happen.

And not much more. Imagine a woman crying and foaming at the mouth and you've pretty much got it.

So I refrained, and other people have said cogent things much more elegantly than I would have, and I vented some bile in real-time conversation, and came to the conclusion that I would talk about something else.

Namely, what we do now. Those of us who aren't leaving the country, of course, and assuming that Nomad's idea--that the states that went blue ask Canada to annex us--doesn't gain the requisite support.

Senator Kerry has asked us to extend our hands to the people who gave Bush a second term. There was the obligatory talk of letting the healing begin. Someone on NPR was talking about how the more mature members of the two big parties will doubtless make an effort to bridge the tremendous, acrimonious gap that has appeared in our society.

That's all well and good, but a little too abstract for me right now. What I want to know is how those of us who were counting on an end to the Bush presidency heal ourselves, and what constructive steps we can take so that we don't lose faith altogether. I've talked to an astonishing number of people who are considering, with various levels of seriousness, becoming expatriates. That's one answer, and there's a lot to be said for it, but those of us who are staying need other stuff to do.

The thing is, there are really two separate issues here. One is that Bush is still president, with all that entails; the lies, misdirection, Halliburton, etcetera. The other is that slightly more than half of our neighbors raised their voices in support of a worldview that many social liberals find deeply troubling, and we've got to get our heads around what that means. Four years ago we could howl about a stolen election and believe that the country really didn't want Bush. This time, although I've heard that there were troubling anomalies, the disturbing fact is laid bare: half the country thinks Bush is the man for the job. This was not a political election, but a cultural one, says another NPR guest I'm too shell-shocked to catch a name for. But I don't believe there is a culture war going on in this country.


I don't know how to handle the second problem. I'm feeling personally attacked by this election; the news that my childhood home was one of the eleven states that passed a gay marriage ban (even if it did go blue) surprises me. The realization that so many people believe that the government has a right, nay, an obligation, to make personal choices for me sickens me. The news that an unusual number of women went for Bush shames me. I have no idea how to make any of this better. I'm not sure how to fight the culture war.

As for the other, however, I have some clue. Besides open insurrection, which seems like fun until you're showering off the tear gas residue with cold water so it doesn't get into your pores, may I make some suggestions?

We need to stay on top of our senators and representatives. We need to encourage them to redouble their efforts; we can't afford to have them missing votes or confirmation hearings. Rehnquist is hanging on by a thread, and we'll probably find that some of the other Supremes were stuffed with sawdust and propped up in their chairs years ago. One commentator noted yesterday that the Court Bush appoints will affect our society for the next forty years. That's two generations.

I plan to be alive at the other end of that span, and hopefully not rotting in jail for sedition because I've shown up at a rally in a provocative T-shirt, which tells me that We need to pay attention to what the adminstration is doing. I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't know all the provisions of the Patriot Act until a bookstore clerk told me he wouldn't be noting which books I was purchasing, just how much I'd paid for them. So if the mirrored-sunglasses dudes came asking what I'd been reading, Bookstore Guy wouldn't be able to tell them. I'd had no idea. But then, I hadn't really thought anything so heinous could clear both houses.

Guess what? It can, it has, it will. We need to know what's being considered so we don't, as the Who says, get fooled again; here's the site for Senate bills, and here's the House of Representatives.

Let's keep an eye out for organizations that the Right opposes. I'm betting folks like Planned Parenthood are going to need more help in the future--time, energy, money. If Roe v. Wade is attacked again--and it will be--these people are going to need our help. I know my mother's feeling exhausted as she reads this; I'm past the age myself where I can easily imagine standing in front of a clinic at six am in the rain. In a perfect world we wouldn't have to keep fighting this battle. In this world, there is coffee.

Consider volunteering in general. Doesn't matter who for, as long as you believe in them. I recommend this because I've found that volunteer work goes a long way towards helping me climb out of depressive states, and it feels a lot better in the long run than hunkering down with the raw cookie dough (although I'm doing that too.)

While I'm not prepared to try to put a good face on what happened Tuesday, neither am I willing to give in to the temptation (strong as it is) to retreat from the world, because that helps nothing. Ranting about Tuesday isn't making me feel any better either, so I'm going to try to keep a leash on that. The arenas above are where I plan to take the energy, try to spin my anger and dismay into something useful.

Will I see you there?