Once on election day, not so long ago, I took off from work. I woke up early, put on a gorgeous Sunday outfit — a beautiful sweater, a skirt too fancy for the office, autumn boots — and headed to a polling center not my own. I volunteered there for hours.
I can’t remember if I put my ballot in the mail, or if I dropped it off in person. That didn’t matter so much. This was the day the world would change.
It was 2004. I believed an end to the Bush administration would bring truth and justice back to the American way. And by “justice”, I meant social and civil justice for all. I had spent the entire year — all of my extra time and money, and most of my emotional toiling — on getting a Democrat back into The White House.
That night, Andy and I walked to a restaurant where the returns were showing on several big screens. We got a table for four so that I could spread out my lists of swing states with electoral vote counts. I had pencils and erasers and I tallied the scores in real time.
Early on, when fellow diners were still arriving and settling in, I jotted down another of the swing returns and checked the math. I checked it again. And it was clear. I had no doubt.
I remember my words. I said, “It’s impossible.”
Andy answered, “What?”
My adrenaline kept rising. I knew I was right. It didn’t matter that the newscasters on the screen babbled on. The people at the next table were ordering food. They all looked hopeful, expectant. Ready for a long night.
I pointed to the page in front of me, “It’s impossible for Kerry to win.”
“Get the check. Oh my god I’m going to scream I have to get out of here. Bush has won.”
When we got out onto the street, I did scream. Yelled. Words. I yelled words. I can’t remember what words. But I remember that Andy — who had just moved from Washington, D.C. to live with me only two days earlier — was worried that passersby in traffic would assume he and I were fighting.
I stormed down the sidewalk raising my hands in anger and anguish.
Poor Andy wasn’t sure what to do, “Please calm down.”
Now, eight years later, I’m not so much calm as I am numb.
Much of my political disillusionment is chronicled here at this blog.
Believe me: if Romney wins, I will be more than upset. I will fight and claw for women’s rights and gay rights, for healthcare and welfare.
And no matter who wins, I’ll continue turning my attention towards issues of compassion: human/animal rights including prison reform, etc.
That’s me with the lazy use of “etc.”.
I’m not permanently apathetic. My head’s just in a different place.
This weekend, during one of my walks, I saw a small set of footprints on the concrete ahead of me. A toddler must have walked in some water and then left his or her marks — a trail of little feet.
When I saw those prints, at first I felt lucky — grateful. I got to see something adorable in the fleeting minutes before the pavement dried.
My next thought was that the human being who made the marks is no more permanent than the water drying on the sidewalk. I thought, soon those prints will vanish, and not very long after (relatively speaking) the person who made them will vanish, too. Maybe someday the adult who held that baby’s hand will mourn his or her death. The order of passage is not so certain, but we’re all going.
Perhaps that’s why I haven’t campaigned as much in recent years. Most of my passion is transfixed by footprints drying in sunlight.