Congratulations to president-elect Barack Obama, whose historic victory, however certain it seemed in the final phase of this campaign, is actually a testament to a very sharp and determined candidate. Like a lot of people who has no dog in the fight between Republocrats and Demicans, I have no shortage of worries about Obama in the White House but I do hope the one clear potential—an end to an odious racial discourse that has always poisoned America since the colonial days—comes through in a huge way.
And here's hoping everything else works out better thany any of us hopes.
In the meantime, and especially for those who were not Obamaniacs, I commend Brian Doherty's great column from 2004 in which he pals around with Bush-haters right after John F. Kerry's heart-rending (to some, even some not named Kerry) defeat:
Apocalyptic Democracy: Life goes on, long after the pain of the election is gone
You may be lucky enough to live in a community of discourse where you haven't noticed, but let me tell you: Some people are very, very upset about the results of the election last week….
Consider my own post-election ritual. I went on tour with an absurdist touring cabaret, 25 or so of us in a converted Green Tortoise bus going from San Francisco to Portland and Seattle and back. Once, at a gas station off the 5 somewhere north of San Fran, a small town cop circled us for a while suspiciously while we gassed up, but we were otherwise unhassled. No internal passports, no one asked for our papers. We entered freely into deals with sellers of diesel, lodging, sandwiches, and beer. We met friendly, amusing, and interesting people, hundreds of whom paid $7 to watch us amuse ourselves with a series of lunatic acts playing hard-but-fair with decades of America's indigenous cheap medicine show, sideshow, and musical traditions.
We visited old waterworks in Seattle and museums of Asian culture. We stood on a hill near the Gasworks in Seattle, watching seaplanes land and private sailboats glide and with some inexpensive imported Japanese keyboard technology enjoyed an impromptu singalong of some classic American popular song from the '20s to the '60s while rolling around on grassy hills. (A plaque at the Gasworks informed us, grimly, that even though we can now produce certain coal fuels synthetically, this doesn't mean it's OK for men not to serve in the military. Really.)
We had snowball fights near Mt. Shasta. We bought six-shot espresso drinks and Italian sodas with cream near Grant's Pass, Oregon, just after sunrise. We were, among others, an old Japanese man obsessed with American cowboy song, a young American woman raised by urban artists riffing on '80s dance styles, a former Clinton White House press worker, a German videographer, an expert card trickster from the Midwest, a central figure in a comedic cult religion, a hard-driving punk rock used car salesman turned barkeep, an aging Australian blue heeler, and one cranky libertarian journalist.
We all got along swimmingly along the highways and byways of this great land. Hardly any of us mentioned the election. (I did get an opportunity to do a version of my why I don't vote rap, but in the spirit of friendly bantering camaraderie, not enemy-making ideological conflict) It was sweet, and fun, and gave me many of those brilliant and touching and intense moments that make life seem like a good idea.
Only in America? I don't know, but in America, yes, whoever is president. We are rich, richer than any people in history. (Yes, even most of our poor.) The possibilities of a joyful life are all around us. I say sincerely to people whose political ideologies I find sometimes horrifying: it's a damn shame to let something like the results of an election ruin your chance to enjoy the myriad possibilities of life-real life, not political life-in these United States.