Reminiscences Before and After the 2008 US Election
The Weekend Before: A Memory
From this viewpoint and this place in time, the weekend before the 2008 US General Election, it is hard not to look back to the weekend before the 2004 election. I spent that weekend walking a local precinct and calling the numbers that were given to Mark who had taken on the Precinct to get out the vote for Senator Kerry.
Mark was fulfilling a promise, or one might say, an obligation, or an ultimatum. The story I tell about that time is that Mark wanted to leave the country after Bush got elected the first time. That, I believe, is what he might say, but I know for a fact that as soon as the war cries and the government lies took hold of the US after 911, he was ready to vacate to take a stand personally and politically and leave the United States so that he was not complicit in these militaristic actions that went so far beyond our beliefs and were an affront to our faith.
But I was not interested in leaving. My parents had left the country after Nixon had gotten re-elected and escalated the bombing in Viet Nam and Cambodia. After years of anti-war demonstrations and organizing they finally took the advice “Love it or leave it”. This was not too dissimilar to the slogan of the Bush regime of “Your either with us or against us”. Well there was no question as to our answer; we were against the Bush administration’s war mongering based on a series of lies to the American people.No matter how many demonstrations I attended, or letters/emails that were sent to our congressmen, no difference was to be made. The Country and our Congress were int he grips of fear and the neo-cons’ agenda and they gave away our civil liberties,our privacy, and our kids to a false war.
The challenge that I gave to Mark was to do what my mother had done. Work. Work hard and organize if you want to leave our great country, our home, our family and our friends. You need to earn the right to move by working to get another administration elected. So he started attending Democratic Party meetings and took over the precinct that someone else had relinquished. This brought us to our fall four years ago,walking door to door, calling a list of voters, distributing literature, and standing outside the polls. We were told that Boulder County would make a huge difference in swinging Colorado to the blue side of the presidential election. Yet our votes weren’t even included in the state count due to problems with our government prescribed electronic voting machines.
I went to the Boulder Theatre were the democrats were gathered in anticipation of victory.I went in confidence and with faith that hard work, perseverance and, I guess one could say prayer, would lead to a victory. A victory for America, Americans, our civil liberties, a victory for the civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq who were being caught in the cross fire of an illegal war.As you may remember, it looked like John Kerry was ahead, wining the popular vote, winning the key states. But then they started counting Ohio and other states.
The painful revelation that our country had been stolen away, yet again, for yet another four years, was utterly painful. The grief was more than palpable. Then to realize in the days that followed, the lack of courage, or was it collusion,that prevented Kerry from challenging the vote, challenging the machines, took away any hope of remaining in the country when I had pledged to leave the country.
Mark packed the car the day after the election and took off for British Columbia, specifically the Okanagan Valley where cacti grow in the northern most tip of the Sonoran Desert.He spent four days between rocky mountain snowstorms and found a bank,an immigration lawyer and a real estate agent. We were on the path to walk our talk and follow in the footsteps of others from the 70’s – “Love it or Leave”, or now, “Either you are for us our against us”.
I realize that if people were to ask whether I would move back to the US if the election goes for Obama, I think, “Why would I move back after living in Canada for four years?”Yet we have only been here for 14 months. In retrospect, it has become clear to me that I made an intense psychological and emotional break from the country of my birth that sad election night four years ago.Subsequent to that election, so much that has been taken away from the people through line item vetoes, through conservative courts that have betrayed our trust and, more heinously violated our constitution, from condoning retention and torturing detainees to spying on our citizens. The foundation of our democracy and our country has been eroded, beyond repair? The time had come for us to be witness from abroad.
On this Monday night, the eve of the election, I am feeling ambivalent. I did donate to, but did not participate, in Obama’s campaign. When we moved north, taking our local phone number with us on our cell phone, I expected that relationships with friends would continue. But only the few tried and true maintained our friendships over the distance over the phone. When people didn’t reach out as I had hoped, I came to realize that we had fallen victim to being“out of sight and out of mind”. Interestingly this situation could be a metaphor for the election. One might assume, given the fact that I am,presumably, so far removed, at least geographically, that we really don’t care that much about the election. One might assume that having crossed a border,and in the minds of some had abandoned the US, I am feeling very remote from the situation. But, in fact,we joined and listened everyday, all day, to our local Washington State NPR station, including: Talk of the Nation, The World, Fresh Air, All Thing Considers and Democracy Now among others. We got our ballots, we called knowledgeable friends, we studied and we voted. Mark drove the ballots stateside to ensure that they were received through registered mail in plenty of time to be counted.
I am optimistic and anxious as our son described New York City this election eve. I am also grateful for the distance, so if the outcome follows on the stealing of the last election, with 1/3 of the nation’s polls still tied to electric voting machines that can’t be audited, then I will not feel the pain as intensely. And I can be happy we did what we did, when we did, because a McCain/Palin administration, even if balanced and by a democratic Congress is untenable and beyond imagination. Even when Obama is elected so much damage has been done to our democracy, our economy,our, dare I say, way of life that even with hope how much can be changed? What can one man, albeit a visionary leader and president do to undo 8 years of a neo-conservative, fascist regime that did so much to undermine our democracy?And if, heaven forbid, Obama loses, what will the world think of us? Or, shouldI say, the USA, because in a very real sense, Mark and I, as ex-patriots, have become disenfranchised, although we are still American citizens and hopefully our votes will be counted to elect Obama to the Presidency and Udall to the Senate.
Fall is a time of transition, death or dormancy for plants that have set their seeds for spring, hibernation for many animals to gain the energy and create the space for change and transformation. Is this the Obama message of hope that will spring anew in the New Year? I find myself hoping for a change, just as I did four years ago, not believing that it can go any other way and in Barack Obama’s words, I dare to hope.
So here I sit tired and exhausted after being optimistic and anxious all day in anticipation of watching the results of our general election. This morning’s meditation was dedicated to Obama and the perfect outworking for the highest good for the nation with undecided voters electing a democrat. I picked a Shambhala slogan card with the election as a the focus and received “The humble warrior is supreme.” What better message to guide me through the day. So I did have a very real sense of optimism that Obama would prevail and it has been an evening of tears of relief and joy beginning when Ohio, then Pennsylvania went for Obama and then to watch the apparently sincere and utterly gracious speech by McCain followed by a brilliant acceptance speech by Barack.
The Days After
It is now Thursday morning and I am home for two quiet days of work in my home office after three days of meetings in town without the space to focus on the election except for the drive home. I quietly wept throughout election night and awoke yesterday morning and the tears continued. I was emotional all day yesterday and had to summon my reserves not to cry again as everyone I met congratulated me on the outcome of the election.They had all been glued to the television the night before as well. Don’t underestimate how closely your neighbors to the north follow politics and activities to the south. We get most of your channels and it was continuously a challenge to figure out which channel to watch CNN, ABC, or CBC.Many people here wept with the results along with others around the globe. The historic moment is not lost with people around the world.Canadians of African decent believe that the US has become a model of possibility for them in this country.Race is a reality in every country in every corner of the globe especially in a country like Canada that prides itself in its cultural mosaic.
So why am I crying? Is it joy in a hopeful future for a powerful nation that now has the potential to change its imperialistic nature and become the beacon of hope that Obama has promised? Or am I crying with grief that I have left my country of origin four years ago in spirit and in body 14 months ago? I weep for those four lost years of national promise. I weep for the teachers and children who have to teach and learn to take tests instead of to think; I weep for four more years of the dismantling of our civil rights; I weep for the greed that has created a global economic collapse; I weep for the loss of life and limbs of our soldiers, US, Canadian, English and others all we have lost in the US over the past eight years.I weep too for Barack Obama for the seemingly overwhelming challenge he faces. I weep for what the world has become and I pray for the vision of what the world can become.
On 911, I called our son, Kris, to be sure he was safe and was relieved to learn that he was in San Francisco away from his Chelsea home and Tribeca office during that traumatic time. It took three weeks for him to get home and he expressed that it was hard to be so far from his home when it was experiencing such an intense tragedy. Oddly, this is a metaphor for me today. After experiencing such a disappointing outcome after working so hard to get Kerry elected, I am sad not to have been at the Boulder Theatre with all the hardworking democrats to celebrate such a fantastic outcome. But I can’t help but wonder where all those people were four years ago when the writing was already on the wall. However, maybe we have learned that all good things come to those who wait.
I am renewed in my faith in my country and many of my fellow citizens. With our work to reclaim this small orchard and develop an organic farm, I am creating the change, at least in our new life in Canada, that I wish to see in the world. I am re-dedicated to thinking globally and acting locally as stewards of this land, which will grow to support us and others holistically and environmentally.
In hope, with peace and gladness,