Saturday, November 11, 2006
Breaking the Syndrome
If you are anything like me, you experienced a roller-coaster feeling on Tuesday night. By "roller-coaster" I mean that mix of queasy and happy, alien and familiar in your stomach that started to set in as the poll numbers came back. Like a middle-aged person who has found love again, I felt hope, and it was a strange feeling.
Remember 1992? Remember how it felt after the bleakness of the long Reagan-Bush era to see the country choose someone intelligent, liberal, vibrant, and in touch?
That night I celebrated with friends now long gone from my life, sitting around the tv with champagne and cheering as the states came in for Clinton. I was just thirty years old and the country had come to its senses for the first time since I had been old enough to cast my vote at eighteen for Jimmy Carter in the Reagan landslide.
I don't even have to say how much has happened in the last fourteen years, besides pointing out that I can't believe it's been fourteen years. The personal and political tragedies that have ocurred in the interim seem common to people all over. Very few of us have not lost jobs or seen our wages stagnate or fall. Some have gotten rich on real estate, but not the people I know. My friends have battled depression, illness, unemployment. When we looked to the national mood, it routinely confirmed the bleakness in our hearts.
There was little joy in soldiering on, though we did. Of course Howard Dean was ousted by the crypt-keeping party elite, the compromisers and slick operators like Kerry and Hillary who sold out so long ago they can't remember who they were. They voted for a war we knew was wrong, and what was worse, we knew as we watched them that they knew it was wrong, too. We watched them lose and we didn't care. They were a bad TV show we dutifully sat down to because it was a habit from younger days and there was nothing better on. Like ER.
So last Tuesday was a revelation. As the numbers came in and I watched the tide turn, I felt something lifting and moving away. People were coming to their senses. They finally saw this administration for what it is--an abusive husband who isolates you from your friends, beats and exiles your sons and daughters, cuts your spending allowance while demanding more and more of your labor, lavishes scarce resources on opportunistic cronies that prop up his masculinity, and pays for his self-indulgent new gadgets by mortgaging the family farm.
Like battered wives, the nation returns over and over again to these strong men, these people who threaten you with fear and violence, who take from you and tell you that you need to be taken from, who tell you that you are evil and immoral and must be punished. Republican hegemony has created and played on the masochistic psyche of our guilty culture. We know we are pillaging the earth but we don't care. Beat me daddy. I'm a bad, bad girl.
After a while, though, even whips and chains can become routine. So maybe our bored consumers are ready for a less perverse adventure in political optimism. Maybe they are ready to like themselves enough to end the ridiculous blood and penance kick of the post 9-11 neofascists, and get on with being grownups in a morally-nuanced world.
How did you feel when you watched the tv this week? Surprised? I would like to say that this feeling I experienced when I saw state after state turn blue was happiness, or even exultation, but I think it was more basic than that.
I think I just felt relief.