Tuesday, November 04, 2008
There isn't a person I spoke to/heard from/Twittered with yesterday who wasn't jittery about the election. I said to more than a few people that waiting for to vote--and getting through Monday--felt an awful lot like waiting to vomit. No one could concentrate. I ended up cleaning the entire apartment. In the afternoon, I was hammered by emails from friends telling me that Obama's grandmother had died. Everyone would like the story of the election to be over, and at the same time, everyone is hanging on to every twist and turn the story might take.
Watching politics in America can be fascinating--and grueling, like the culture itself. The money spent has been unprecedented. Some would say excessive. When an election is on in the US, it is nearly impossible to miss the heavy campaigning that permeates absolutely every possible media outlet. As in all things we do relentlessly and earnestly, Americans throw everything into campaigning. Relationships fray. Last election, I l chose to terminate a few.
Having such an international family means that I am acutely aware of how the US is viewed. It makes my relationships even more complex. A sensitive person by nature, I often feel acute pressure to speak for and represent my country, which is often irritating when I'd like to be taken as an individual. When Bush won in 2004, a friend in the UK sent me a JPEG of the cover of the Daily Mirror. I was livid. Why pour salt in a wound when you know a friend is grieving?
I can't begin to express how much I miss my father this morning. For every ugly thing that has happened at the hands of the US government in the past 8 years, I could always look to my father as representing the best of America. He loved and believed in the very best of what we have to offer, and wasn't embarrassed to say so. He was white, and yet I realize now, perfectly at ease around people of color. He was bilingual, he was traveled, he was cultured, he was witty and he was kind.
In my immediate family, he was also pretty much the only American. As "American" landmarks--elections, holidays--unfold, I realize how much I miss him because he was the one who taught me to appreciate these things. We talked on the phone obsessively about our votes for the primary. He used to call me nearly every day to complain about George Bush and it got to the point that I bought him a "Last Day in Office" ballcap to wear. He supported Obama. And he's not here today.
I remember the very first time I voted. He took me to the polling station in Carmel--I think we walked--and he proudly told me that since he was registered as a Democrat, we would vote on the "left" side of the polling booth, which was not as popular as the "right side" which the Republicans frequent. He did not mind doing things that were "not popular," and smiled extra hard at the lady in charge of our polling station lest she feel lonely for being unpopular herself. I got an "I Voted" sticker. I wore it for years until an ex boyfriend told me it looked lame. My father and I stayed up at night, watching television, waiting for the outcome of the election. "They don't always wait for us (California)," he said, "but it's very important that you always vote." That was 1992. In 1996, I was living in the San Francisco Bay area, but still registered at home so I would be able to vote with him. And off we went again. My father never missed an election.
Today, I don't have my one, American family member to talk to about the election. It makes the responsibility feel even more grave, somehow. "Don't forget to vote," said my husband before going off to work. As if. I'm voting for both of us. And for my mother, too, and also for my father. And all the Japanese and Scots who are watching.