Inauguration Day

Ever since Election Day, I have been thinking of how to put down in words what has been going on, both internally and externally. So many other people have been able to write, with eloquence, the rage, the fear, the cynicism, the hope, and the pragmatism that has been going through my head for days. They've composed essays and articles, one after the other, that seem to speak to me and say all the things I believe need to be said. So what's the point in me adding another few paragraphs to the pile? But then again, Dear Reader, I've never really written this blog for you (sorry), although it makes me happy when you read it. This blog has pretty much always been for me.
January 2001 I was a sophomore in high school. My mother, despite my anxious protests, had frog-marched me onto a plane with a dozen or so upperclassmen, my teacher and her husband, bound for Moscow. Boris Yeltsin had just stepped down as the first President of Russia, Dmitri Putin was the new leader. At the time he seemed a bit wet and pathetic really, lacking the bombastic persona of Yeltsin. In the US, the general election had finished and was now being hotly contested in court rooms. Al Gore, the Democrat candidate, was entitled to a recount of votes in Florida, as the final tally was incredibly close. George W. Bush, his Republican opponent, said that was nonsense, he had won Florida fair and square. They had both had the most boring, lackluster, vanilla presidential campaigns of my lifetime.
In the high school in Moscow that we attended for 4 weeks, we had a little room set aside for us. It had that smell, and feel bringing me back to my elementary school days in Canada: the scent of melting snow, and sweat trickling underneath all the layers we were wearing; the dryness of a space overheated against the extreme cold outside. We huddled in there almost every chance we got, a little group of Amerikanskis seeking refuge from giggling Russian girls, and deep-voiced boys asking which celebrities we saw on a daily basis. It was nice to be in a room with no on staring at you like you were something exotic. Usually, none of the Russian students bothered us but this particular January afternoon, two girls came in wanting to do an interview with us for their school paper. One of the questions was, "who did we want to win the election? Al Gore, or George W Bush?" At 15, I obviously couldn't vote, but I had kind of followed the election and I was starting to develop a political identity. The majority of Amerikanskis said, "Bush." Something in the way they gave their answers told me that they hadn't really thought about it. Their parents most likely voted for Bush (my school district was very Republican), and Bush was probably the name they had heard most often at the dinner table.
I said, Al Gore. A someone who has been hauled over 30% of the globe by her mother, endured death marches around historical cities and castles, been denied McDonald's in Hong Kong, and had one of the best collegial libraries as my education playground; I said, Gore. As someone born from a science librarian and a lasers physicist who had her early medical needs met by taxpayers, I said Gore. As someone from a single parent household who had once heard Dr. Laura say a father was necessary for a decent shot at the future, I said Gore.
But, spoiler, Gore lost.
The Supreme Court of the United States decided to stop the recount.
Even though Al Gore received 50,999,897 votes to Bush's 50,456,002 Bush became President. There was a lot of finger-pointing, mostly among Democrats, trying to pinpoint exactly what went wrong. Ralph Nader cost us votes, some said. Gore was too stiff and unapproachable, others said. Gore should be a gracious loser and stop whining about the recount, and then, no, actually he should keep fighting the good fight.
Over the past few months, I have thought a lot about what would be different if Gore had prevailed. Would we finally be making real progress on climate change? Would the Dakota Sioux need to point out that North Dakota is trying to install an oil pipeline on their land? Would we still need to point out the Roe V. Wade makes sovereignty over a woman's body hers and hers alone? Would ISIS have the vacuum we created to emerge as a new force in the Middle East? Would our schools better serve our students? Would student debt be more manageable? Would Medicare be expanded? Would the Great Recession have occurred? Would Obama have served as President after Al Gore?
I'm painting a very rosy picture of an 8 year Gore/Lieberman administration. Who knows what would have really happened. Maybe Gore would have been just as stymied as Obama was. Maybe he would have capitulated to saber rattling after 9/11 and plunged into a disastrous military campaign in the Middle East. Maybe he wouldn't have had any of his pro-choice appointments ratified by the senate.

You might be wondering what the hell the 2000 Presidential election has to do with 2016. This is where and when it all started for me. This is when I began to realize just how silly our governing system is.
This is when I began to see all the flaws of America. This is when the American flag, flying on just about every house, car, and business, began to be ugly in my eyes. This is when I began to realize that most people latch onto the simplest, most reduced version of events without questioning, without thinking for themselves because that's the easiest way to get on with their lives.

Gore did not do anything wrong. He ran a campaign that obviously appealed to most Americans. Eligible voters selected him.


Popular Posts