I walked up to the school and nodded to some friends. They were selling baked goods at the PTA bake sale. I didn’t donate anything this year. I worked that gig three years in a row before I was PTA president. I avoided the political flyer people by walking along the inside wall of the courtyard, hearing my husband in my head, as he coached his soccer team, “Not in the middle! Down the line!”
The lines were not long to vote. I got in mine, the A-M line, and waited. I spent time talking to a neighbor and then admired an elegantly dressed Middle Eastern couple, she in her peacock-toned gown and elaborate golden jewelry and he in a beautiful black suit and sporting a very cool mustache. They were speaking in their native language, but the energy wafting off them said to me that this was a big moment for them. I couldn’t help but marvel at their sense of wonder and excitement, they were going to vote for a president, probably their first time, in America.
The poor bastards.
A brand-new-to-voting American teenager got in line with his mother. He was wearing a skater t-shirt and skinny jeans and she was wearing a sweatshirt with the American flag on it. And pants, she was wearing pants for sure. They murmured about the issues and kept to themselves, his mother beaming with pride over her son, stroking his back. Some other people streamed in, workerbees from here and there and a grandmother with her grandson who was about five. He was holding her driver’s license, excited to hand it over to the volunteers on the other side of the table a couple dozen people down the N-Z line.
I was wearing my uniform: yoga pants, running shoes, an impossibly difficult to get into tank top, a running jacket and pony-tailed hair under a baseball cap. I had a headache: I had been at the pool the night before for water / swim testing novice rowers on my son’s rowing high school team. I don’t do well with the chlorine vapors and still, more than 12 hours later, everything smelled like faint bleach. But I was excited to be there. Voting is always like Christmas to me: you make your list, you send it up and you really don’t know what you’ll get in the end. Will the gift you wished for be as magical as you thought it would or will you get another book from your hopeful parents brimming and overflowing with enthusiasm over a first-edition of A Tale of Two Cities?
This polling place is my children’s school gymnasium. The weather was cold, but clear on Election day. The walk up along the path is very pleasant. On the national news election night, they had a broadcast from a school in our town and my kids went bananas. “That’s our gym! That’s our school!” and I had to remind them that no, it wasn’t. The mascot was all wrong.
We were all there, waiting to make our mark after more than a year of hearing about this day. I was sure of whom I was going to vote for only because it was more so a vote against someone else, as it had been in 2008. Come to think of it, I haven’t actually voted in favor of anyone in a very long time.
People streamed in and the line grew longer. My doubts about everything started to bubble up in my mind. I am a Libra so I’ve been accused of being wishy-washy and non-committal a lot. I can’t stand that assumption, frankly, because I’m pretty firm on a lot of things in life. I was about three people away from reciting my name and address and then getting my red voter card that I would hand to another person who would gesture me to my booth.
A few moments later, another couple came in: she was a police officer in her blues and he was wearing a Dominion Power uniform. Superstorm Sandy was still wreaking havoc on power lines in Northern Virginia, so I appreciated that this guy took some time out of his day to vote. The little boy was scraping his pants with his granny’s ID. Then, all of a sudden, I didn’t know anymore. I realized, I didn’t know who I am anymore as a political American. Like a zombie I recited my bona fides to the bespectacled man behind the table. Daunted, confused and whatever, I took my red card, handed it to the other lady and went in to vote.
The screen pulsated and glowed beneath me: red, blue, green. And those blasted Commonwealth of Virginia code changes and bond referenda. Geez Louise, they could use a class in Power Point. How about some bullet points and breaking out the paragraphs. Skip the president part… go back later.
I resented the whole concept that I didn’t believe in either one of these guys. I was ready for the day, for sure! But I wasn’t ready for either one of these guys to resume management or take the reins of my country. I dig America. I tell my kids whenever they complain about anything, “Uh, you woke up in America today. People are dying to live here. Still! You have nothing to complain about. There are people without schools, police, libraries, hospitals, parks… get a grip.” They agree with me for the most part, except the schools, some of which are among the best in the nation.
I went back to the president part. Nope. Skip over to the state and local decisions. That was easy. Back to the president…hmm. Screw it. I pushed the buttons and I voted. I pushed “Confirm vote” and immediately I was overcome with buyer’s remorse.
I thought, “What have I done?”
It’s hard to believe only three days have passed (two, really). I posted on my Facebook status the other day after the election that although I am a fiscal conservative, I am a social liberal although I aligned myself with the republican party for this year’s election SOLELY on the financial aspect of the country. I think I freaked out some people who thought they knew me. Yeah, you can do yoga and still want a financially sound country. That’s how I roll. When I voted, I didn’t sweat the smaller, personal issues: women’s health, gun control, gay marriage and other hot topics like that because to ME, those are state-level issues and I voted accordingly at the state level.
Before things get too serious here, let’s digress but stay somewhat on topic:
“agh c’mon i’m not a robot, ok? i wish. that i could go higher and you could rotate my arm and send me whooshing into space.”
I am an Alex P. Keaton republican, a traditionalist in the “Family Ties” mold of the 1980s. Alex loved Reagan and I did too. When the Iran hostage situation was going on, I was a kid, in 8th grade and I watched with fascination how that whole thing went down. Reagan appealed to me; he had a nice way about him on TV at least and I was hooked. I believe in capitalism. I believe in working hard and bootstrapping and building a great life for yourself. I subscribe to the Wall Street Journal for goodness sake. AND… The New Yorker magazine.
The fiscal cliff really bothers me. We haven’t had our own money in a long time. We are printing it. There is nothing there. In the famous words of Gertrude Stein when discussing her hometown of Oakland, California after a long absence, “There is no there, there.” When I was a kid, I heard panics that we were broke all the time despite a Volvo in the driveway, a Steinway in the house and a sailboat moored at a yacht club, private school, day camps and a house in Canada. I’m not emotionally good when it comes to money issues, so this fiscal stuff is a trigger for me.
I’m not a pundit and frankly, I’m not sure I want to be. I know what I know: that it takes $78 to fill my tank. That milk costs $3.99 a gallon. That dinner out with my kids to a very unexciting place costs $50 now. 117,000 jobs in one month in a country with 22 million unemployed is NOT a big deal. The economy is more stalled than a rusted out dump truck in Moe’s Hauler Yard. I don’t need to tell you this. Our national debt has gone up $6 trillion under Obama since he promised to halve it. Our (me, you, that guy, his sister, her friend, that dude at Taco Bell…) personal share is more than $50,000 each. Our kids? Probably in the range of $100,000 each. This is not a legacy I’m excited about. This is not what I want in a likable president. When I heard the media report that Obama’s likability rating was higher than Romney’s and was actually considered relevant in this race, I thought, “yeah, I wanna play beer pong with the Commander in Chief, that’s how I know he’s gonna be a good leader, ’cause he can get you free smokes at the bar and he’s smooth with the ladies…” But hey, I don’t mind hanging with the guy as long as
he’s you’re buying the tab.
Where am I Socially? Where I’ve always been: everyone should live and let live; life is hard enough on its own, why must we go around telling other people how to live more than we already do: don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t buy drugs, don’t sleep with your friend’s spouse, don’t skip out on taxes, don’t speed, don’t lie, don’t park here, don’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent, don’t make fun of your sister in that dress. You know: be good, tell the truth, pay your freakin’ taxes.
I believe lots of things that apparently don’t matter to the republican party because they’re too busy telling people how to live. I know I’m not alone. Some of my most extremely liberal friends have told me the same, they simply didn’t feel like they fit in. Except for one… she was ready to vote Obama in for a second term right after he was sworn in for the first. I love her anyway though. Which I still can’t believe when I consider the debt. I just can’t. I mean: would you stay with a friend or a lover who ran up your credit card bills to a point where you’d have to declare bankruptcy? That’s where we are, folks. I can’t wait to see the next inaugural celebration. I wonder who will perform then. I’m sure it will be gratis. Because he’s so … likable. Eww.
Romney might’ve blown it with the 47% gaffe and by picking a white, male running mate. I thought for sure that Romney would make an excellent Ward Cleaver turned president. After four years of Ryan Seacrest, I was ready for someone to send my friends home, tell me to brush my teeth and go to bed because I had school in the morning.
Still, back to the finances: I believe in a hand-up not a hand-out. I feel Obamacare is putting our doctors’ practices and ability to properly care for people in jeopardy. Many will have to leave managed care and go into super-private VIP practice just to keep their lives sane. I don’t think marijuana should be legalized. Isn’t smoking doobies mostly a high school and college thing? If there are people my age still getting high off dope, then … well … really?! I happen to agree with another person who commented privately the other day that if this is how America is shaping up to be, then perhaps Romney shouldn’t be so disappointed that he lost because the American voting populace is sort of … well, embarrassing. This other person said lately, “We are France.”
And trying to explain the electoral college to my son after he countered with “When we vote for pizza in school, and pizza voters are the majority, we get pizza. This doesn’t make any sense” was clearly pointless. I have long believed that the electoral college is a frigging stupid, bizarre, screwed up, absolutely completely inane concept; I’d like the electoral college to lose its accreditation. If I didn’t want my vote to count, I wouldn’a bothered to vote.
So whaddya do when you’re me? When you believe that socially, people should be left to live their lives but fiscally you believe that it’s time to go to bed for school in the morning?
I have no clue, but I’ll always be a Libra.
So… I’ll see you in 2016.
UPDATE: a fantastic post written by someone who did not have an undiagnosed and raging sinus infection at the time he wrote it (unlike me) http://www.ericgarland.co/2012/11/09/letter-to-a-future-republican-strategist-regarding-white-people/
ps – are you in for the Gratitude 100? get your thanks to me by 11/19! I’ll have it ready by Thanksgiving!