Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Post-election day post

I feel absurd writing about anything other than the fact that Obama was elected president last night. It's so big. Maybe it's too big to write about, at least for me. Besides, I'm exhausted. For your consideration, here's "my life on Election Day 2008":

The day started calmly, though thoughts of past election day shenanigans and disastrous polling danced through my head, causing me momentary bursts of high anxiety. I was happy that I had been asked to poll-watch, even though I figured there wasn't much to see in my little town and even if the turn-out was larger than normal, with only something around 400 registered voters, how busy could it be?

I tried to do some schoolwork before Noon, when I was to be at the Town Hall, but I never got around to it. I read every stinking poll there was until I was dizzy with anxiety and tempered hopefulness. I read every last blog that I normally follow and at 11:50 I walked out of my house.

I asked my neighbor for a ride over there, 'cause I didn't have time to walk. She grumbled about calling some friends and family who weren't planning on voting, and how they still weren't planning on voting. I didn't know who she was voting for (and I don't know now how she voted), so I said, "I don't care who you're voting for - I just want people to vote." That's true in theory, but I wanted as many people as possible to vote for Obama.

I will be honest about something I should keep secret: I was undecided until the last moment about one of our Senators. Susan Collins seems like a very good senator, but she's a Republican, and I wanted them to go down in flames yesterday. But I didn't like that I felt that way. I've never been truly partisan. So, I've been flip-flopping for the last week. It made me realize that the thoughts I've had about people who were undecided until the last minute in the Presidential election may have had similar feelings. Here in my little town, 75 people voted outside of their party for Obama. Maybe they felt hesitant to jump ship. I didn't understand and now I think I do.

The poll-watching was silly. More correctly, it was overkill. I sat there with a list of Democrats, checking off names of people who arrived to vote. There was a steady stream of people, but no real lines (unless you count waiting with two people in front of you a line). About one hundred people voted while I was there, and only two or three of them stated their name in a voice that I could hear. Everyone was whispering. Add to this that some people had heavy Maine accents and I kept repeating myself, "Could you please state your name again?" I had one chance to ask them and that was it. It's a law!

What was strange for me is that, despite living in such a small town, I saw almost noone I recognized. Many people I know here did not vote. Others, I found out, had voted early. The women working at the polls for the town knew everyone and I felt rather foolish for they knew me. But I've only lived here for going on four years, which makes me quite the newcomer. Never mind that I've lived in this country almost twenty years.

I'm glad I brought my knitting. It made me seem less like someone who was there in some official capacity keeping an eagle eye on things and being an outsider.

There were two "incidents", actually. One was disturbing to me on a personal level. A dear friend of mine, who passed away over two years now, was checked off as having voted. Huh? I did the eulogy at her funeral and I don't think she came back from the dead to vote (though she would have loved to). And to all of you who think it's awful I'm making a joke about this, she would have liked that, too.

But, yes, she was still on the voting rolls. It was the unofficial Democratic tally that said she voted, and not the town's, so it was corrected without having to find out if someone pretended to be her. Noone did. But still, it's a bit of mystery.

The other little incident was that a woman showed up, wearing a "I Voted" sticker and walked around, shaking each of our hands, while stating her name. Huh? Oh, she was running for office. But doesn't she know she's not allowed to campaign inside the polling place? She expressed complete ignorance of this law, which I learned in elementary school. She tried to stay, and shook a few people's hands before she was asked to leave. The town clerk said she couldn't do it and she appealed to me, saying "What's wrong with introducing myself?" I told her it was glad-handing, which was campaigning, and that's that. Me, the kill-joy.

I proably would have voted for this woman, but I was so unimpressed by her trying to either pretend she was ignorant of the laws of polling places or trying to convince us that we were, that I didn't vote for her.

Dick and I voted at 4:00pm, got our stickers and came home where we both sequestered ourselves with laptops until 7. . .I made a 15 bean cajun soup with too much thyme in it and then realized all those beans on a night that I was anxious wasn't the best of ideas.

At 7:00pm, when the first results starting coming in, I was sure that the polls were going to be proved wrong. The earliest votes were for McCain and as much as I knew that these were all states he was expected to win, I became a nervous wreck.

More results came in. We were watching CBS, MSNBC and CNN at the same time 'cause we've been election junkies. I checked various blogs during lulls, which were few.

When Obama won Ohio, "they" said it was pretty much a done deal. Dick wanted to open the champagne, but I wanted to hear someone say "Obama wins" or that it's impossible for McCain to win until we started celebrating. When did that happen? It had to be before Obama actually did win, for we were drinking champagne for an hour or more. I can't remember. Last night is rather a blur.

Dick said he was calling it a day at 10:45 'cause he had an early meeting in the morning. I said, "It's possible I'll wake you up with my yelling when they call it for Obama."

I lost track of the time. At 11:00 I decided I wanted an apple. I was in the kitchen, cutting an apple into pieces when the electoral vote reached 284.

Here's what I experienced, on account of that apple: I sat down in front of my laptop and saw a picture of a girl curled up in a little ball, down on the ground, surrounded by other girls who were crying. My first reaction was, "Did they shoot Obama?!" Then I looked at the top of the screen: Obama 248 Electoral Votes.

I did start screaming. Dick came downstairs and as I watched people crying in Chicago and Harlem and Spelman college, I started to weep. I couldn't stop. The phone rang and it was my father. He asked, "What's wrong with your voice?" I said, "I'm choked up." "What?!" "I'm choked up!" "I can't understand you!!!" "I'm CRYING!!!" My father: "I never thought I'd live to see this day."

I was glad McCain gave the speech he did. And Obama, well, it was almost too much. That music added to my sense of unreality. I wished I was in New York City or Chicago, for I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that he won. Here in my sleepy little town, everyone was, well, asleep. There's no street to be out on, if people were to take to the streets. Well, no sidewalks, that is.

I sniffled and cried a little more, read everything I could get my hands on, e-mailed people and twittered some, and finally, at 2:30 or so, went to bed.

My aunt called this morning and she was choked up. Something happened that is far bigger than Obama winning the presidency. It has a lot, for me, to do with not being a white anglo-saxon protestant or any other type of Christian. It has a lot to do with having my ancestors being killed en masse. It has a lot to do with my mother, who made sure I went to schools that were integrated when I was very young and took me to rallies and marches. It has a lot to with not being from here, where I live, and as I poll-watched yesterday, I felt that keenly.

This was personal.

So, I could write a bit about this, after all. But now I'm done.

Photo note: Obama in Berlin. Strange and awesome (in the true sense of the word). The sea of white arms. The legacy of crowds past in Germany. And much more.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I couldn't stop crying either. I'm so hopeful for the first time in a long, long time..