White knuckles

I confess to not getting much done these days; I’m too involved in the election.

I just got back from a weekend in Denmark.  Sounds very jet-setty I suppose, but I assure you the travel is long and confining and devoid of champagne.  Although the work was fun enough, otherwise I hardly got outside for a walk in the rain and drizzle and dark that dominates October at 55 degrees N latitude east of the Gulf Stream.  Mostly I was stuck in the hotel, where CNN International or the BBC gave scant, terse, and cursory coverage to the contest between Obama and McCain.

My mother, if she were on this trip, would have had white knuckles on the armrests the whole way, as she feels she has to personally fly the plane to keep it from falling out of the sky. I feel very safe on a plane and am content to let the pilots fly, often falling asleep before take-off, and being surprised out of a book by the jolt of touchdown.

But I am white-knuckling this election, obsessively and personally responsible for shepherding the collective unconscious to the result by means of my daily attention.  I haunt the blogs, both right and left, searching out the fault lines that might take this thing off its course or make it fall out of the heady sky where it now soars.

There was a brief moment, several eons ago in early August, where I honestly did not care so much.  Obama was off his rhetoric and acting like a typical pol, and McCain’s reform agenda had some steam and passion behind it.  Though I still preferred Obama, they were more equal then.  But McCain’s puzzling embrace of the same gutter politics (hell, the same people) that he confined to a special place in hell when it was used so successfully against him in 2000 combine with his cynical choice of Palin and his utter failure to define what he would do that would distinguish himself from Bush and the Republican pack of neo-con wolves that have chased this republic so very far from its roots in the last eight years.

I don’t blame them much for the economic crisis.  This is a natural swing of the pendulum from the Great Depression of the 30’s, where regulations established kept us ‘safe’ but hamstrung the entrepreneurs until the Reagan revolution came along to start the process of deregulation of financial markets seconded by Gingrich and finished by Bush.  Though they hastened it with their general eye-off-the-ball laxity (helluva job, Alan) that allowed that essential of collapse, a highly leveraged market, it would have happened under anyone, as will the period of increased regulation to come.

But I blame Bush for our America becoming a land of torturers and extraordinary rendition, a land that uses depleted uranium in Afghanistan and shock and awe in poor benighted Iraq.  I blame Bush and Rush Limbaugh and Fox not for their views, a few of which I agree with, but for so lowering the level of civic discourse in this country that I am ashamed to live in it, embarrassed to go abroad as an American.

So, while convinced that we will be kvetching about President Obama in a couple of years, I find this election the really important one of my adult life – I was only 11 when Kennedy was elected – simply for the tone that will be set.  For no more and no less than the tone of voice that will be used, I crave Obama’s reasoned hopefulness.  Anyone realistic enough to strategize his way past Hillary’s juggernaut machine and its lock on the nomination and then successfully deflect the relentless drumbeat of the Republican attack machine (while declining to link McCain with the Keating 5 or other similar available tactics) – he has my vote of confidence in his judgment.  McCain wants a ‘firm hand on the tiller’ – an image I understand completely – and that hand has been shown to be Obama’s.

I pray the groundswell is strong enough to surmount any Republican attempts at voting fraud.  I am fervently praying that the Secret Service is doing its job, both against race-baiters in white top hats, and also looking behind for palace coups from within, for I fear deeply for our constitutional government should Obama fall between now and January 20th.

The next four to eight years are going to be dicey.  We have been driving this vehicle at breakneck speed for the entire coffee-fueled 90’s and naughties, all forced to look anxiously straight ahead to keep it on the road.  The economic slowdown will be a chance to turn to each other and say ‘hello’ again, share a moment and help each other out.  It won’t be easy, but it might restore a better quality of life to this fascinating experiment – hopefully only temporarily off its natural course – called the United States of America.

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