The only person who slept soundly in our house last night was our son, and that’s because he’s too young to have been aware of what was happening last night; too young to know what kind of country and what kind of world the incumbent president and the Congress have in mind to prepare for him to inhert. He just knew that something was making his Daddy and Papa increasingly unhappy last night. Fortunately, he had long since gone to bed when the evening reached its nadir. I turned in around 2:30am, half an hour or so after the hubby. I slept maybe a couple of hours. The hubby tossed an turned.
Neither of us had much to say this morning. Speaking somewhat figuratively, it felt like September 12. In fact, that’s what it feels like. During the campaign Bush was fond of saying that Kerry lived in a “September 10th world.” Well, now I expect that for a lot of us every day—or most of them anyway—will feel a bit like September 12th.
Most of the day I’ve swung somewhere between outrage and despair. I’ve been listening to Sweet Honey in the Rock (since the MP3 player came back to life) most of the day, just to lighten my mood a bit. It’s helped somewhat. It might have helped even more if I could have just not left the house, and worked from home today. But I had to run an errand that took me within a block of the office. Unfortunately it took me within a block of the buildling where the Republican hordes were holding their victory party. I left the office early, to work the rest of the day at home, which unfortunately meant standing at the bus stop as they were emerging from their celebration, carrying signs and wearing t-shirts emblazoned with with their candidate’s name. I gave decidely dirty looks to a couple of them who passed close to me. I couldn’t help myself.
So, the American voters have chosen to give the inmates the keys to and full run of the asylum, and on the day after those of us among the 48% who voted the other way (some 55,437,651 in total, all told) are left to wonder what happened, why, and what’s to come. And while John Kerry, in his concession speech, asked Americans to put aside our differences and reach across the divisions that have only been made deeper and wider in the last four years, and particularly during the campaign, I can’t help wondering just how we can and just why we should.
I’m one of those poeple for whom today is just painful and hard. There are some 48-49% of us. As I watched the coverage on ABC last night, Tavis Smiley said something that stuck in my mind: in this election, the question was whether people would vote their hopes or their fears. We have an answer now. Fear won the day. That’s what’s most dismaying, and what leaves me so angry at the other 51-52%.
And what havoc will their fear wreak? There are theories and scenarios, none of them rosy. Some say Social Security and Medicare, as we know them today, are on the way out. Say goodbye to Roe and hello to the return of sodomoy laws, if the religious right can find a way to manage both. Oh, and practice saying “Chief Justice Scalia” or “Chief Justice Thomas.” Some people expect and outright “holy war.” After all, the religious right is now off the leash.
Gay and lesbian Americans can simply forget about achieving anything close to equal citizenship for at least a few more generations. Sure, there were some bright spots. Cincinnati voted to repeal its ban on gay rights laws. All three openly gay members of Congress were re-elected. And across the country gay and lesbian candidates won public office. But those bright spots aren’t enough to overcome the dark crowds looming ahead. Andrew Sullivan, with whom I agree on very little, sums it up frighteningly well.
I’ve been trying to think of what to say about what appears to be the enormous success the Republicans had in using gay couples’ rights to gain critical votes in key states. In eight more states now, gay couples have no relationship rights at all. Their legal ability to visit a spouse in hospital, to pass on property, to have legal protections for their children has been gutted. If you are a gay couple living in Alabama, you know one thing: your family has no standing under the law; and it can and will be violated by strangers. I’m not surprised by this. When you put a tiny and despised minority up for a popular vote, the minority usually loses. But it is deeply, deeply dispiriting nonetheless. A lot of gay people are devastated this morning, and terrified. We have seen, and not for the first time, how using fear of a minority can be so effective a tool in building a political movement. The single most important issue for Republican voters, according to exit polls, was not the war on terror or Iraq or the economy. It was “moral values.” Karl Rove understood the American psyche better than I did. By demonizing gay couples, the Republicans were able to bring in whole swathes of new anti-gay believers into their party. With new senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, two of the most anti-gay politicians in America, we can only brace ourselves for what is now coming. [emphasis added]
If Bush’s election felt like a slap in the face the passage of the state anti-gay marriage amendments felt like 11 kicks in the gut. And what’s coming? Most definitely more of the same. It’s already in the pipline. By the next election there will be at least 10 more such amendments, all of which will likely pass, plus 10 more in the election after that one, and they will all pass too. Who’s going to stop them? Us? Us and our non-gay supporters? Not likely. There are, after all, more of them than us.
For all the reasons above, and more, I have a two word answer for those who would suggest that Americans need to “unite” in “support” of the president now, and begin to “heal” the divisions between us, which have only widened during the campaign:
I’m not uniting with anyone and I don’t want to heal anything. If I think Bush’s foreign policy sounds like something cooked up over the dregs of a frat party keg, how do I “support” that? If I think his domestic policy is like a Disney-ized sequel to 1984, how am I supposed to support that?
No. The president, the Republicans, and the neocons neither need nor deserve my support or help. They got what they wanted: the chance to continue the appalling job they started doing. They will not have the Democrats to blame for their failures. I hope they drown in the shit-storm they’ve started, and choke on every acrid drop. I don’t intend to offer help, support, or much of anything else except applause. I intend to stand back and give them plenty of room to fail.
I intend to enjoy the show, and wait for the splat.