People! Can you BELIEVE it? We’re here, we’ve made it, it’s done! Ding dong, the witch is dead (or flown away anyway), and a new era begins.  Oh, I am jaded, but I’m also full of hope, optimism, and love.

Whatever your political stance, whatever your beliefs, whoever you voted for: you have a new President now. If you come here regularly, I suspect that you, like me, were shedding tears of joy today; but maybe not; maybe not.  And you know, you know I love you anyway, regardless of what you do in a voting booth.  That’s something we are privileged to be able to do: to be able to disagree about the hows and whos of governance, and at the same moment honor and see and love one another.  If you hate the man’s politics, if you hate his middle name: we can handle that, right?  We can join in celebration, in recognition, on that enormous common ground that we share despite those differences.  We can. We do.  We will.

We have a leader who you may not have voted for, but who — I feel certain — will lead your country, our country, forward with intelligence, resolve, wisdom.

We have seen a historic blow against our racist past, our history that we do share in some sense even if our grandparents or parents only recently arrived.

We have a man whose smallest gestures declare him to be a loving and respectful husband, a devoted and committed father, a man of deep decency, living in the White House, living in the eyes of the world.

We’ve witnessed, again, the peaceful and ceremonious transfer of enormous power that, even in days that seem grim, ought make us rejoice in and of itself.

I have cried today, over and over, cried standing in a crowd this morning and rising all together to witness the swearing-in.  I’ve cried during the speech and cried witnessing the emotional tears of an African-American mother and cried standing in front of a class of people from fifteen different countries, trying to share the transformative  potential of a leader committed to changing the ways this country relates to the rest of the world.  I’ve cried to think that torture in the name of the U.S.A. will end.  And when I think about the tax bill I’ll owe after six years of refusing to pay up to Bush, well, I gotta say I choke up all over again.

But, oh … they are tears I rejoice to shed.


Post-Election Petulance

I’m not sure if that’s quite the right title, or if that’s exactly where my thoughts are going, but bear with me. Oh yeeah, it’s more post-election processing.

If you’re an Oregonian, or if you’re political junkie enough to have followed the Senate races closely, you know the Jeff Merkeley hoo-haw. Close, exceedingly close race; the Republican, Gordon Smith, has been in the Senate since gawd-knows-when and had developed a rep as a moderate Repub, fairly centrist; but he has some baggage, like his pro-Bush voting record of late and the dischord of his harshly anti-immigrant stance with his illegal-immigrant-dependent family company (Smith Frozen Foods). It was a squeaker, but the Democrat – Merkeley, a blue-collar union guy – was called as the winner the following Thursday. (Not as much drama as Coleman v. Franken, but whew! enough drama for me, baby.) As I stayed up late scrolling through comments on our beloved (ha!) local rag, The Oregonian, I detected a common thread in many of the responses, and it interested me … not just for what it showed about Oregon, but about this election, from start to finish, and about this country, even. Maybe.

The responses that got me thinking were from Eastern Oregonians, mostly, which is – if I may grossly overgeneralize here — is Redneck Country. Ranchers, cowboys. Hunters. Big-truck guys and horse-owners. The emotion expressed was something along the lines of: How dare those big-city @#$% tell me who MY senator is? Merkeley knows nothing about me or what I believe. He CANNOT COMPREHEND me or my life. He CANNOT REPRESENT me. I CANNOT ACCEPT that he’s been chosen, because I did not choose him. The system is profoundly broken if urban Portland can choose Eastern Oregon’s Senator.

Uhh, kinda standard post-election bitching, you’re thinking, and yeah, maybe so, maybe so. And maybe I’m reading too much into this. But what ran through my head was …

a quick recap of my whole life …

which has been a whole life of being represented by people who do not know what I believe, who do not comprehend me, who do not comprehend my life.

A lifetime of being represented by people who don’t understand what reproductive freedom means to me. People who have never dealt with sexist barbs, and real barriers, in work or school. People who don’t know any Mexicans other than the gardeners they walk by. People who have never lived a year on under $10,000, people who’ve never spent a week in jail because they lacked $80 for a parking ticket, people who have never had to use the free clinic, never had teeth pulled because they lacked dental insurance, people who’ve never shed a tear over extinction, people who’ve never shed a tear over ‘collateral damage,’ people who’ve never lost a night of sleep over the injustices of the world.

I accept that. I have to. If you’re Latina, black, Asian. If you’re a woman. An immigrant. If you’re queer, trans, biracial, bisexual, Buddhist, Muslim … if you put animals first, if you put babies first, if you’re in prison, if … if you don’t fit an extremely narrow mold, you’re not represented by people who understand you. You’re not represented by people who put your priorities first. And you know it, and you deal with it. You accept it and move on. You get behind leaders who you don’t identify with, but who you think can do a job adequately, or even well. You don’t angst about it. In fact, the whole notion that you – that people like you – could really have a leader that reflects you – well, it’s not something you lose sleep over, is it? It’s never been that way, and you’ve survived, you’ve – I hope – thrived.

About three nanoseconds: that’s how long it took for all that to flash through my mind.  And I thought, not hatefully, I hope, not gloatingly, but I thought: Better get used to it, guys.  Better get used to not being the norm.  Get used to leaders who don’t look like you, don’t sound like you. I’m used to it already.  It’s your turn now.

And of course, my thoughts go full circle, back to Obama.  It seems to me that he’s had the experience of being an elite, of being in the boy’s club, wearing the $1,500 suit, having a driver, being the Harvard alum, the law professor, the superstar young politician.  All to the good; who can begrudge him?  Because what strikes a chord with my is his other experiences; experiencing racism.  Facing the assumptions made. Not getting that cab, not getting that call back, not getting that rental.  Being called a name, getting that subtle and not-subtle message, all his life.

That means an enormous amount to me.  It means that he has some sense of how that woman feels when she walks down the street wearing hijab and hears “Towelhead!”  or how that other woman feels when she’s told she can’t use the ladies’ room because she looks like a man.  How that kid feels when his classmates taunt him with “Faggot!”  or how the Korean kid feels when he’s taunted with “Chink!” How a Garcia feels when their last name turns a traffic stop into a full body search and warrant check, or an Al-Hamidi feels when his name turns an airline security line into an interrogation.  And that sense – it makes so much difference.

See, I don’t ask that my leaders look like me or sound like me or believe what I do.  I’m waaay past that.  But suddenly, I have a hope that at least one leader – a rather important one – has an inking, a glimmer, of what it’s like to be me.  Someone who’s seen society from the top down, and the bottom up, a least a touch.  It means – who knows?  Who knows what it will mean?  But maybe, just maybe, it means a lot.

So, About That Convention

Didja watch? Didja, didja? Wasn’t it great? I wanted to watch more – like I wanted to watch more of the Olympics – but I only caught the tail end of Barney Smith, some commentary, and then Obama’s acceptance speech on TV. And whew, what a speech. No, not transcendent oratory, which he is capable of, but a speech that had a job to do and did it.

Echo was sitting on my lap for most of it, and at one point, I asked if she knew who that guy talking was. “That’s the President, honey,” I said, and as I said those words, a little shiver went through me. I have never used that word with her, never schooled her about what nation-state she belongs to or any such stuff that used to be called ‘citizenship’. I cannot imagine exposing her to the malice, avarice, and slow-wittedness of Dubya – it seems on a par with feeding her lead shavings, not to mention exposing her to the roiling boil of my nerves he instigates, which is never a good thing to expose a tot to. So this whole concept, “President,” is a brand-new one. And friends, yes, I did get a little shiver. Yes, sure, I’m a Green and a Zapatistaist and on occasion a black-masked anarchist, putting me perhaps a little further afield, politically, than most likely voters. Sure. But, damnit, I’m still a citizen. I still have the right (the duty?) to care about how defiled the Presidency has become, and I still have the right to expect something from leadership that purports to be mine. Aaah, to imagine it … President Obama! A president who calls the U.S.’s addiction to oil exactly that, an addiction; a president who can both read and speak in complete paragraphs; a president who realizes that the middle class is the backbone, the lifeblood, the foundation of the U.S. rather than a beast to be bled to death. Who knows, this may be the year I pay taxes.

~~~~~~~~long digression below, sorry~~~~~~~~~

Now, look, I still can’t reconcile myself to his FISA vote, OK. But upon reflection I do understand it better. Surveillance, baby; that’s the future; your life on the big screen, at any given moment. Giving permission, why, that’s so last century! I think of an old college prof of mine, someone I T.A.ed for multiple times. His thesis of privacy: Have none. Own everything about you and about your life, own it without shame, announce it or at least be prepared to at any moment. Invasion of privacy is only an invasion to the person with a secret. So, have no secrets, have no shame, and be done with hypocrisy. Then it won’t matter a whit to you who spies on you.

To some extent, I totally agree. Some secrets should not be had. I can’t bring myself to care about the rights to privacy of a child pornographer who gets arrested because someone intercepted and read his emails; spy away, I say! Tap his phone, open his mail, I bless you for it. BUT. There is a problem here. This theory of total transparency works just fine if your ‘secret’ is, say, crossdressing, or a foot fungus, or atheism, or polyamory. But what if you are one of that vast silent majority of Americans who feel that a glass of wine is on a moral and functional par with a bong hit? Now your ‘secret’ could cost you your house, your children, your career, your very life. Could. Could, if someone chooses to punish you. You ask me, until drug laws (and those nasty anti-gay laws) are finally made sane, FISA is not much more than the attempt to get a handle for blackmail on every American alive, and that simply sucks.

~~~~~~~~~~~~digression done~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So, softies! I’ll be catching up with my softie-mailing duties this weekend, so be prepared to give me your mailing address. As soon as those babies are shipped, I’m moving on to ROBOTS.