"Hey, there's something I've been meaning to ask: All these years, you never thought about leaving?"
"Every single day, son."
"Where to?" Twilly said.
"Bahamas. Turks and Caicos. Find some flyspeck island too small for a Club Med. Once I bought a ticket to the Grenadines and got all the way to Miami International --"
"But you couldn't get on the plane."
"No, I could not. It felt like I was sneaking out the back door on a dying friend."
Twilly said, "I know."
Skink hung his head out the car and roared like a gut-shot bear. "Damn Florida," he said.
-- from Sick Puppy by Carl Hiaasen
As others have pointed out on sites more learned and thoughtful than this one, there is a time for licking wounds and a time for getting angry, not bitterness-flavored angry but energy-flavored angry, the kind that drives you to get smart and organized, the kind that stirs you to volunteer your time to organizations and/or individuals who will be enriched by your help, the kind that reminds you that, to your opposition, there is no such thing as "just" a local race and that from small things, mama, big things one day come. I hope the time is coming for you, dear friends. It's almost, almost here for me.
This past week's election-based adventures have called up all of my worst turtley impulses, the desire to, in Terry Jones and Michael Palin's words, stick my head, sand-like, into an ostrich. I don't want to live like this forever, and as much as I love our dear friend Vicki, I'm not quite ready to move to Canada yet. But dear friends, I find myself sorely tested, and looking about for the nearest ostrich, by that whipping boy we love to hate, the media. Specifically, I find myself tested by the New York Post, who appeared to have discovered the 2,000,000-point font in their headline for yesterday's late edition, labeled simply, "W2." To those of you who live in red states, you Kerry voters surrounded by acres and acres of Bush country, I realize it's probably more than a little obnoxious to hear someone from the ne plus ultra of blue-state cities complain about the Post. I know, and I'm sorry. Understand, though, that despite all contrary appearances and/or stereotypes, New York is not the huge liberal monolith so many believe it to be. You have Staten Island Republicans, commuters from wealthy suburbs in Long Island and Rockland County and New Jersey and Connecticut, Upper West Side liberals who suddenly found themselves on the same side of the homeless issue as Rudy Giuliani, outerborough Reagan Democrats, new immigrants from conservative Catholic countries, and millionaires, both self-made and inherited, who have more money than God and vote with their pocketbooks. Just because their votes were not enough to put Bush over the top in New York doesn't mean that they don't have strong and passionate convictions about this election and these candidates. If you shout out your misery here, you will not hear your own voice echoing back at you. In other words, we effete New York liberals have to play nicely with our neighbors, who are very pleased with Tuesday's results, and it shouldn't be too much to ask that we be able to walk past a deli without being confronted by those enormous Post orgasm headlines. Then again, that's all part of the free and pluralistic society we all know and love, or at least claim to. If we all march in lockstep with each other, it's not a great day for pluralism. Dear Republican friends, I'll try to remember that if you extend the same courtesy to me. That means you, Mr. and Mrs. Ohio Couple Who Voted for Bush Because A White-Hatted Cowboy Always Saves The Day. (That's a paraphrase, but not by much.)
However, just because I recognize that we all have beliefs and opinions and they don't always dovetail with each other's, that doesn't mean that I'm going to smile prettily while the Future Dark Minions of Karl Rove try to pull another elaborate shell game, the kind that terrifies people into overwhelmingly voting for laws that would deny gay people the right to marry, while drawing their attention from the things that really should terrify them. From now on, I'm going to get angry, not bitterness-flavored angry but energy-flavored angry, and I'm going to throw my weight behind the candidate who will pick that energy up and run with it. To those friends of mine who insisted that Kerry was our only choice for an electable candidate, and that my long-ago-thwarted plan to vote for Howard Dean was tantamount to rolling over and handing the election to Bush, I appreciate your concern but I'm still saying no. Think of the way Bush galvanized his supporters; think of the way they screamed at every campaign stop, at the convention, at his Wednesday afternoon speech. Now think of how it would feel if we had a candidate like that. I'm not saying that Dean had to be the pony that you should have bet on, but I *am* saying that maybe this tendency to pick our candidates out of resignation is not doing us any favors. I can tell you that I had the first inkling that Dean might have been onto something when, upon announcing his candidacy, he called out, "Mr. President, I want my country back!" <em>Hmmmm</em>, I thought.
To those who have communicated with me via e and/or other message boards and all asked me the same question: "But what about The Scream?" (That would be Howard Dean's whoop in Iowa, not the recently-stolen Edvard Munch painting)...for shame, dear friends, for shame. I know at least one of you was impressed with Jon Stewart's argument on Crossfire. If you'll remember, Jon was less than impressed with CNN's (and other networks') tendency to reduce complex issues to two formats: "Pro and Con, as Described by Two Talking Heads" and "Pro and Con, as Described by Two Screaming Jackasses." I don't know if Roger Ailes and Jamie Kellner (or whoever is responsible for the shenanigans on CNN now) really think that they are imparting news or providing entertainment, but from I where I sit, they are doing a piss-poor job of both. If you listen to the talking heads and the screaming jackasses, the Dean whoop was considered the beginning of Howard Dean's plummet from grace, the moment at which he proved himself as too unstable to lead the nation. Never mind that it was played over and over, out of context, the aural equivalent of taking a photograph of someone at the exact moment he is sneezing. The day that some smartass producer is comfortable with my taking a picture of him sneezing and then sending it to that really hot girl he keeps running into at Max Fisch, that's the day I'll cut them some slack for the Dean contretemps, that day and not one day sooner.
(You may wonder, <em>why all the Dean material, Jen, and why now?</em> I will admit that my mind was tickled by a conversation with my dear reality-based friend C. JoDI at Journal of the Demographically Insignificant. He has a theory that Dean was finished long before the scream; Dean was actually finished the day he appeared on one of the Sunday morning gasbag news shows and said that one of the first issues he would tackle in his administration would be the overconsolidation of the media. It was at about this point that we heard less about the wildfire nature of his campaign and more of the "Is Dean just too damn loony to be electable?" stories. I will try not to dwell on the observation that a man who cheers his own victory in a primary is considered batshit crazy, but a man who utters profanities about reporters into an open mike, who until recently didn't believe that Sweden had an army, and who still can't make up his mind on whether or not Osama Bin Laden is still considered a threat to this country is considered presidential. I will not dwell, simply because dwelling impedes action, and it is time to get my head out of the ostrich.)