Friday, November 9, 2012

Post-Election Night

What a difference four years can make.  For the country, it has seen the death of Osama bin Laden, but the birth of the Tea Party, four years of rough economic times, held together by a bold stimulus package and the bailout of the auto industry.  We have seen healthcare reform and the coining of the phrase "Obamacare".  We have also added to our jargon words like "birthers".  But, the war in Iraq has ended and there is a set timeline for withdrawing from Afganistan.  And it goes on.  I actually tripped across a list of President Obama's 50 Top Accomplishments in his first term just in case you are not sure what has gone on over the last term.  It has been pretty jam packed.

For me personally, of course, it has been an equally raucous ride.  Much of it on a downhill trajectory, but not all of it.  I sat in my mother's living room watching the results come in four years ago with her and her night attendant whom I had just hired in an attempt to try and keep her at home.  She was a lovely young woman, raised by former hippies and therefore pretty liberal.  She and I were nearly giddy as the results rolled in.  Mother finally lost her temper with us and sternly reminded me this was her house and we were NOT to celebrate Barack Obama's election in front of her.  I am not sure if she was more offended by the fact that he was black or a Democrat, but my money is on the former just being aggravated by the latter.  She would never spend another night in that apartment, so I've often felt a bit guilty about ruining it for her, but of course some major history was being made in front of us, and it was hard not be excited by it.  And actually, it wasn't me that ruined it for her really, it was the American electorate, but boy was I glad about that.  I will always that remember the tug and pull of emotions that night.

I will likely always remember this election day as well, but it was a far different experience.  Tuesday night I watched the results from a basement 1,400 miles away from that north Austin apartment building.  I was with my husband, four fewer dogs, no mom to worry about and, of course, the big one:  one less daughter to celebrate or commiserate with.

Of course, aside from the jarring difference in circumstance and locale, I'll remember it because it was a challenge just to participate.  I have been battling a stomach bug all week, and it was wicked that morning.  Getting dressed to go to the polls was a challenge, but we timed it right and there were no lines or I would not have made it - without some grave personal embarrassment anyway.  As it was, I barely made it home without a major issue.  There is no early voting in Pennsylvania, or I would have voted long ago.  And, the whole drama that most of the nation knew a little about with the voter ID did raise its ugly head.  While it had been struck down by the courts for this particular election, it will be in force for future ones, and the volunteers at the polls were instructed to make sure people had ID's.  That caused confusion in other areas.  At our particular polling place, they just reminded us that it would take effect going forward.  Other places were asking to see it.  There were long lines in many places.  Marissa had to wait a half hour to vote.  She was lucky.  Some places across the country waited for hours.  If you look at where the main issues were, it impacted minority and young voters in particular.  Ask me, there was a definite push to suppress voting in areas likely to support the President.  News flash:  he won anyway.  In both the electoral college and popular vote.  For those of us who support him, we can breathe a sigh of relief and take some satisfaction in a battle well fought.  But, we cannot rest on those laurels very long because those same antics will impact the values we fought for in future elections.

Which brings me to the main point really.  This was a hard fought election, with a lot of bitterness probably on both sides, but from my perspective the social conservatives seemed to be the ones throwing the big barbs.  That is likely not fair, but, like I said, that's my view of the world.  We all have our unique view of things.  Doesn't make us always right, and it certainly doesn't mean the other guy is always wrong.  I think in an election cycle now complicated with the speed of communication through social media, that is easier to lose sight of than ever before.  So, for one last time, this is my appeal for all of us to remember who we really are at the core:  Americans.  Our ancestors built this country on the foundation that we have the right to express our personal beliefs.  I don't remember ever seeing anything about suppressing our neighbor's beliefs if they don't agree with us.  To my conservative friends, particularly the ones who were getting a little feisty on Facebook or Twitter on Tuesday night, I say this:  for now, my political leanings have won the day.  Four years from now you have another chance at it.  I hope we will be ushering in maybe the first female President next and her name could well be Hillary, but if that sounds like a bad idea to you, then back the other candidate, and accept that this is the beauty of the process.  In the meantime, you have the right to continue to work for candidates locally and in the mid-term elections that you feel will represent you.  More importantly, you have the right to live your personal beliefs.  You are against abortion?  I do not have a beef with you over that.  I simply do not believe my government should impose that belief system on others.  End of story.  I believe that my friends who are gays and lesbians should have the same rights as you and I do.  That does not make me a bad person, I'm sorry, but it doesn't.  But somehow so many people personalized all of this and demonized individuals who don't share their views.  It is time to put it aside and get back to living our lives together as one nation.  I hope we can do that, because we do have a lot of work to do.

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