Hard Rain

[Prescript: Tonight I got drenched in a cloudburst during a cross-city walk that I didn’t plan on happening. ‘Twas basically okay, though, for at all the crucial nodes and junctures I had the jukebox remnants of Ms. Williams’ “Jackson” playing in my head. The stuff that matters is the stuff that gets you through.]

If this election really was as historic as everyone seems to think it was and if the speed with which TV resumes normal broadcasting after outsized events is any indication, Americans must be the most bovine creatures that ever existed; by 10 a.m. today I felt like I was finding nothing but Malcolm in the Middle reruns the morning after Lincoln visited Ford’s Theater. The lasting damage looks to have occurred inside my friends’ psyches, but then a lot of them really expected Kerry to win. I never could see it myself – I mean, I live in America, and paid glancing attention to what’s been going on here the last 30 years or so – plus his campaign was spattered with telltale signs as he failed to get a lasting national bump from even a single one of his supposed highlights (e.g., Iowa, naming Edwards, or the convention) or gain any traction despite the endless trail of bad news that littered Bush’s excellent Iraqi adventure like a line of smelly elephant turds. The most interesting part of the whole day yesterday – that is, the only part that had any emotional coloring beyond outright head-rolling depression – came around four o’clock. By then the major anchors were openly chirping about how happy and gloomy the Kerry and Bush camps were respectively thanks to the early exit polls from Florida and Ohio, and that was the capper to a train of details accruing over the previous 48 hours that made everyone feel the wind shifting behind John Kerry’s back. But then there came a long empty hour or two in which the pundits droned on and flashed their fancy graphics but no real hard news was breaking that was like the anticipatory moments before a gathering thunderstorm. You could see the clouds piling up overhead and darkening in hue…but then they just sat there and the rain never came. By the third or fourth time that George Stephanopoulos and the other handicappers mentioned that the red and blue states were falling into the exact same slots as 2000, it was obvious that something was wrong, and that all the ballyhooed new turns this election was supposed to hinge upon – the insurgent youth vote, the angry minority vote, and a Democratic party incensed by ’00 and flush with cash gathered through the Internet – weren’t going to cut the nut.

While it’s true that 55,000,000 Americans voted for a liberal Massachusetts senator who once referred to our wartime actions in Vietnam as “atrocities” and put him within a single state’s electoral votes of the White House, it’s also true that more than 59,000,000 reelected a man who, after plunging us into a harebrained war and gutting the economy, couldn’t think of a single mistake that he’d made in the course of it all. The fact that this same man acted as if he had a mandate when he didn’t even have a majority of the popular vote makes it easy to guess what he’ll do now that he’s been reelected after a noisome campaign, had his single largest Senate opponent removed, firmed up the House, and stands in line to make perhaps a couple or three Supreme Court appointments. How one should react to these circumstances seems entirely a matter of personal choice, but right now I can sympathize equally with the suicidal, the expatriate, and the armed revolutionary. “Don’t mourn – organize,” is what Joe Hill supposedly said before a Utah firing squad cut him down, and that seems like an outstanding posture for all true-blue activist types to adopt. On the other hand, the real problem is America itself, and that’s a question even the smartest political animals on the left rarely seem to get a handle on. [Here follows some stuff I really shouldn’t post yet. This program has a nifty feature that allows you to X out all troublesome Microsoft Word features, but to date it doesn’t do shit towards salting down my more lachrymose, heartrending prose. Let me re-read tomorrow and see what I think then. Expression aside, the sentiment remains the same: This country has one long row to hoe.]

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