As I trolled various news shows over the weekend, a serious malaise—in the words of Jimmy Carter–fell upon Mr. Wow.
The closer we inch to the presidential election, the less I want to be there—here!–watching and groaning as both sides debase the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, the Civil Rights Act and virtually everything this country is supposed to represent. (But never did, really.) I malaised myself into a big headache.
After I took some Advil, Aleve and B. placed a moist cloth on my fevered brow—Thank you, Mr. Darcy!– I was drawn back to recalling the night Barack Obama was elected.
I had voted early in the day with B. I was not a happy voter. I wasn’t an Obama man. I didn’t think he was bad, just not my cup of Chief Executive. His speeches didn’t wow me, his measured manner of speaking drove me crazy. Those who looked at him, or toward his potential presidency, as some kind of transforming moment, were foolish, I believed. Politicians rarely transform, though they promise the world. (That’s why they’re called campaign speeches.)
Still, with Hillary out and Sarah Palin looming, what was a reasonable liberal to do? I voted for O. As we left the voting booths in Hoboken, I said to B—“This was pointless. I don’t care how many teen-themed Disney programs feature interracial dating. I don’t care what ‘data’ claims the improving stats are on bigotry. This is America. We will never elect a man of color as president. The Civil War never ended. My God, anti-Semitism is still rampant in this country!” I was distrait on the street. B. took me home and placed a moist cloth on my brow. Thank you, Rhett Butler!
I took my turbulent feelings with me to a celeb-studded “election party” that evening. I was instantly regretful having accepted the invite. It was an unusually sultry November. I was sweating and uncomfortable. Everybody was networking and drinking and making jolly. I was not so jolly. I peeled off my jacket only to realize I’d sweated through my shirt. Pit-stains on election night ain’t pretty. I put the jacket back on, but felt I was kinda ripe.
I was focused on the big TV screens, running the results, as each state closed. I seemed to be the only one interested! Eh, show biz goes on, no matter who is president, right? I didn’t drink much. In fact I barely touched my screwdriver. I was anxious. So anxious I left the party at the very moment it looked not so hot for Obama. I couldn’t bear a room full of movie stars, producers and directors, performing the fabled five stages of grief. It would happen within an hour and Acceptance would be particularly grisly.
I walked to the Port Authority. It struck me how empty the streets were, though midnight was still hours away. I assumed everybody was at home, watching the results or still voting. I wasn’t sure when the polls closed. It was slightly creepy, end-of-the-world-ish. Also lovely. New York is never more beautiful and welcoming as when it is deserted. (August, despite the heat, is a paradise for those who want to wander Manhattan. Everybody’s on vacation. Visit the Metropolitan Museum!)
When I got home, B. was up, of course. “Obama won! He’s the president of the United States!” I was, and I frankly admit it, shocked. I had been wrong, perhaps. Maybe we had come along and I just hadn’t noticed? We sat and watched his speech and I was momentarily lifted. I had lived to see a new century. I had lived to see a man of color in the White House. Wow–I’d lived a lot! Obama was stirring to me for the first time. Well, it was the fact of his ascendancy that stirred me. I didn’t remain uplifted for long. As me and B. continued a rigorous night of channel-surfing, including Fox News, a feeling of hopelessness overwhelmed me. “They’re already campaigning for 2012,” I said. “He really won’t have a chance. And I don’t think he’s equipped to handle the resistance he’ll face.”
I also felt Obama was too idealistic for the office he’d won. It might have been better to have waited ten cynical years.
But he didn’t wait and he did win. It was his moment in time, I guess. Here we are three and half years later, the joyful balloon deflated.
Despite Obama’s big butch bulls-eye as the killer of Osama bin Laden, his good intentions with health care, and his struggle with an economy shattered when he took office, it seems to me we are likely looking at a one-term president, who will leave office both more relieved and embittered than most.
What I’m feeling now is not so much disappointment—Obama is a politician, I didn’t expect waters to part. No, I’m tired. It’s the climate. It’s what we’ve allowed ourselves to become—fixated on the second- to- second sensational sound bite. Unable to ignore the negative. The Internet has caused everything to telescope so drastically; each event is all-important for…48 hours. When George W. Bush left office I felt I’d never known another president, those eight years seemed like eighty. The Obama three-and-a-half seems more like three hundred years!
The drip, drip, drip of hatred has worn me out. God knows what it has done to him and to Michelle Obama. He has made some mistakes. He has been tentative on certain matters. He lacks obvious (phony) passion. He is careful and lawyerly. Except when he isn’t. And then he pays for it, bigtime. But I’ve never seen ugliness on such a scale as has been directed at this president and first lady. And that includes the Clintons, who were Lord and Lady MacBeth to the Right for eight years. (Let’s never forget Mrs. Clinton, now Secretary of State, was alleged to be a murderer in the most salacious rumors.)
Yes, it’s been racial. And if you don’t agree, fine. That’s how I feel. That’s what I read in the comment section of stories about Obama on conservative sites. It’s lurks there. Right underneath. Not everybody. But a lot.
I’d like Obama to have a second term. I want him to prove something to me, to a person who didn’t expect much to begin with, but someone who feels strongly his life will be harder under a new regime. Looking at 60, and unemployed right now, I see myself in a Republican world. I don’t like the way that looks. (Though it’s no gay fling now—the president has yet to acknowledge my personal travail and send a check!)
And, since I abhor political correctness, let me say right now I don’t want a Mormon president. It’s a cult. Now, all “religions” are culty and crazy. But at least, let’s say, Catholicism is based on thousands of years of belief—much of it lifted from pagan mythology—and it inspired great art and great thinkers.
I am not comfortable with a president who believes in a religion less than two hundred years old—an angel visited Joe Smith in Palmyra, New York, seer stones, golden plates, etc. Palmyra, really? (Although perhaps they said the same thing back in day—“Bethlehem, really?”)
Anyway, the tenants of Mormanism, not to mention the church’s wealth, power and secrecy, creep me out. Although, individually, I have met many lovely Mormans. I just don’t want the insanely wealthy Morman “leader” Mitt Romney ruling the world. Otherwise, I’m sure he’s lovely, too. (Yes, I know all about the Vatican. But our one and only Catholic president, JFK, was an unrepentant whoremaster. He wasn’t exactly towing the line.) If we’re gonna go this way, let’s just elect Tom Cruise as president.
Sooooo…it’s gotta be Obama for me, no matter my palpitations or how many moist cloths B. places on my brow. Thank you, Heathcliff. Oh, wait, Heathcliff would probably strangle me with it. Back to somebody from a Jane Austen novel. Or B. himself. Always a gent.
I worry too much. I watch too much cable news. Anything can happen. November is still eight months away. I want somebody to shake me by the shoulders like Bette Davis did to Miriam Hopkins in “Old Acquaintance.” Just to clear my head.
And if that doesn’t work, a good Cher-like slap, a la “Moonstruck”—“snap out of it!” Maybe then I’d stick to the History Channel and Turner Classic Movies. And…never read a newspaper?
Hmmm…that’s gonna have to be a pretty hefty slap.
Thank you—Stanley Kowalski?