Trying to believe …

Trying to believe …

I’m having a very hard time here at LivingSmall believing that Yes, We Can indeed do it this year, that we can vote a “transformational” leader into the White House. Despite the newspaper endorsements, despite Colin Powell’s strong endorsement, despite the 100,000 people gathered beneath the St. Louis arch — I’m fighting a nagging sense of despair.

The racism on display at the McCain rallies is so … what? horrifying? frightening? appalling? The open calls for violence, the gleeful finger-pointing and sneering claims that everything is just fine in America, that our wars are just and our financial system is not collapsing are so crazy that I find myself sinking beneath the weight of it all. It makes me wonder if this is what it felt like in Europe in the 30s, watching crazy leaders like Hitler and Mussolini rise to power.

It is my fervent hope that the numbers hold, and that Americans finally reject these politics of hatred and division. It is my fervent hope that we figure out a way to build an economy based not on geometric unsustainable growth (“the economics of the cancer cell” as Ed Abbey named it) but on some saner measure of growth, some sustainable model in which the income gap between rich and poor begins to shrink again and we see some way to rebuild our middle class. It is my fervent hope that we somehow manage to build a civic society based not on what divides us but on what unites us.

But in these last days of the election I am not as hopeful as I’d like to be. The forces of darkness that the powerful and entrenched are unleashing are very frightening to me. The financial crisis seems thus far only to be hurting the poor, who are being evicted from their homes (often, as in Chicago, from homes which they have been renting in good faith), while the rich seem to have figured out a way to back a truck up to the Treasury door to save their own untenable lifestyles. The calls from the right for voter disenfranchisement, the early stories about rigged electronic voting machines in West Virginia, the coordinated efforts to deligitimzie an Obama victory, these are all very frightening and disheartening.

I’ve been pretty sanguine until this past week or so. I always thought Obama would win, even way back when most of my friends were Hillary supporters. He won Southern Illinois, I kept telling people. Southern Illinois!? Not exactly territory for a Chicago black man with a weird name. But that wasn’t a race where he had a real opponent, and this time he does, not in McCain so much, but in the entrenched elitist core of the Republican party, that core who believes that the only “real” Americans are the ones who look like them, white, male, rich, “Christian.”

I grew up in the belly of the beast, in one of the true old-money suburbs where my classmates had brand names for surnames and where having to work at all, no matter what kind of money you made, was seen as something of a misfortune. I grew up in that world where blacks and jews were not allowed to join the country club, and where my parents generation still whispers when mentioning that the boy who grew up down the street married a black woman. The group who were, in the famous words of Molly Ivins, “born on third base and think they hit a triple.” They are powerful and unashamedly elitist and unshakeable in their beliefs. That’s why I left.

Instead of staying in the bubble and trying to either make that kind of money or marry that kind of money I’ve spent the past 25 years trying to figure out how to live in a joyful way outside of that system — the system where everything is judged by what kind of house you have and where you vacation and what clothes you wear and which schools you send your kids to. And Obama seems like the first leader I’ve ever seen who is talking to those of us outside the bubble. Colin Powell on Sunday referred to Obama as a “transformational” figure — and I just worry that at the last minute too many people will find that frightening, will not pull the lever for transformation, but will fall back on the old mess they know, the old mess with which they feel comfortable. But maybe I’m wrong — I certainly hope so. It’s hard to tell way out here where despite our Democratic governor and senators it’s still a pretty conservative, Republican state (and where there is still a big proportion of the voting population who will not vote for a black man). What’s the vibe feel like for the rest of you? Am I just panicking?

8 thoughts on “Trying to believe …

  1. Interesting post.

    I find myself at an uncomfortable place. I do not like socialism. I do not like “redistribute the wealth”. I do not like rob from the rich and give to the poor.

    That said, I also do not like “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, all on the backs of the middle class”. I do not like “trickle down” – it doesn’t.

    I think Obama will be elected UNLESS, and that’s a big unless, there is some sort of manufacturered ‘tragedy’ that will scare voters into voting for McCain. But I figure if we’re really that stupid, we deserve what we get.

    Sigh. 🙁

  2. Well, Obama’s hardly a “socialist” — we’ve had a progressive income tax in this country since the Civil War — all he’s proposing is to roll back some of the breaks that the Bush administration gave to the very rich and to give a break to the 95% of the country that makes less than 250k a year (remember, the median income in the US is still somewhere in the mid 40s). For most of what I imagine to be the LivingSmall audience, we’ll get a break. For my lovely friend at home with the beautiful garden — well, they’ll pay more. That hardly seems socialist to me …I do believe that the more we can strenghten our middle class, the better off we’ll be as a nation.

  3. Well said, Charlotte. And yes, I have that nagging feeling, too — the hate and vitriol being poured out right now, the appeal to people’s basest fears, the attempts to persuade voters by demonizing the Other all scare the daylights out of me because there are those who latch onto any easy answer. The unthinking acceptance of these divisions scares me, and the lack of foresight as to what that acceptance can bring REALLY scares me. The only way through this mess is to work together, to accept hard facts and move ahead regardless. Obama and Biden are the only ones speaking that truth and holding out a hand to say, join us and we will join you. I hope enough people can see that and believe in it. But for the next two weeks, I’m gonna hold on tight…..

  4. Thanks Jen — especially from Ohio — you all must be innundated at this point. I just gave another $100 and signed up to be a poll watcher — which means I need to go vote early — I love going to the polls on election day — but with the numbers the way they are this year, I guess I”ll just have to suck it up and forgo that little pleasure for practical reasons.

  5. If you read all the good about one side and all the bad about the other side, you will feel despair.

    If you wish to believe what people want you to believe about the evil of the others’ followers, you will despair.

    If you can step back a moment, and realize that most of the people in the country in which you live are not evil, you will feel fine.

    I hestitate to say this anywhere, because people are *not* being united. They *are* being divided. Both ways.

    Personally, I miss when politics was a little less in-your-face. And I wish people would show everyone a little more respect.

  6. Most of the information I read makes me hopeful about Sen. Obama’s chances. I think he has a good shot. Certainly he has a huge number of hard-working volunteers who are really motivated to see him win, and a more organized campaign than any democratic candidate I can remember. I’m more concerned about how I might feel six months afterward, if he’s elected, when the knowledge I now have intellectually that his presidency won’t fix all our problems really sinks in and I feel let down. But comparing the direction he intends to take America with the direction Gov. Palin and Sen. McCain plan to take America, I have to throw my weight (such as it is) behind Sen. Obama.

    Time was when I had great respect for Sen. McCain. He stood up against torture when no one else in his party would. But when he started thinking of the presidency, he turned around and said torture isn’t torture if the CIA does it. He crumbled on his principles and made a devil’s deal with Gov. Palin to buy him the radical fundamentalist wing of his own party…the same fundamentalists who have been controlling the politics of the Bush administration. But I think that was so transparent an act of moral weakness that it lost him this election, along with the cowardly attacks of his campaigners against Sen. Obama. The ads he’s been running, the attacks on ACORN which are based on a desire to disenfranchise poor people, these are acts of desperation, the thrashings of a confused campaign that can’t see what to do next, can’t anticipate the next need. I think if Sen. McCain is elected and runs the country the way he’s run his campaign, we’re all in for heaps of trouble. But I think if things keep progressing the way they are, Sen. Obama will win the election on both the popular vote and the electorate. He won’t magically fix everything. But he will get us turned around, and start us in the right direction. It’ll be up to the American people to choose that direction and choose to continue the work. And I have a little more faith, now, in the American people, than I had in 2004. Just a little.

  7. It surprises me that people can come out in support of the McCain/Palin ticket when so much of what they say is so obviously geared toward either telling the people what they want to hear, or telling the people that what they’re saying is what they want to hear. The rumors that are spread about Obama are vicious, and hateful, and it’s amazing that people care about these things so much. (And it’s downright dumbfounding that Cindy McCain can come out and attack Obama for running a nasty campaign!) I know I can’t speak for everyone, but why on earth should a person’s religion disqualify them from a position? Assuming that this person is a mindful, balanced individual, I can’t see that it matters. (Yes, I know he’s not Muslim.)

    I agree with Kerry that once, McCain might have been a person that I could have voted for. No more. And even more so now that I’ve read so much about his history. The Rolling Stones magazine just came out with a 10 page article (it’s available online) about McCain’s past, and if they’re right, much of what he says and does is a complete sham.

    I’m hoping Obama will win. I do worry though, about an election like the ones that “voted” Bush in. I can’t imagine the American people would stand for another election like that, but on the other hand, we are so divided as a people that I think neither side would ever truly believe that the other side won fairly if the issue needs to be contested. And I also don’t know if people will be able to make their voices heard if a situation like that occurs.

    So I’ll cast my vote tonight, and then I’m resigned to waiting with bated breath.

  8. Having been born in “Dead Rock” and growing up there in Montana I have to say I was greatly encouraged when MT went from dark Red to pink on the electoral maps. That in and of itself indicates to me there is hope. I think I’ll start calling that the Big Sky Political Trending Index. If MT turns pink, the Dems have a shot…

    I feel your fears…we were at the feed store about 10 miles south of here (we live on the southern edge of Seattle), and Maya overheard the clerk and two patrons talking about how the wouldn’t “turn their country over to someone named Obama” and talking about how they wished Palin was at the top of the ticket…absolutely horrifying…My biggest fear is that a good number of Americans vote as if they are participating in an 8th grade student council election and the slightest shift in the winds will lead us astray.

    I also agree with Kerr. Even though I disagreed with McCain on most issues 4 years ago, he seemed respectable, sane, and an almost acceptable alternative to the mayhem in the White House now. Watching the debates and his speaking engagements it just seemed like he got loonier and loonier, he has lost his way, and the Palin pick to pander to the least common denominator is down right frightening.

    I’m pretty sure we’ll be up all night on the 4th, and that is kind of a shame given where we are at and what the options are, but I’m trying to remain hopeful that this country will wake up and smell the coffee on this one. Record deficits and decietful foreign adventures AGAIN…how many times can the Republican party sell us up the river and have us come back for more…

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