The election was two weeks ago tomorrow, and I think I’m finally coming to realize how I feel about it.
The constant, vise-like pressure in my chest has eased. It’s not gone, but it’s eased. Certain immediate terrors that I considered on a daily or even hourly basis appear — for now — to be staved off.
I find the most immediate of those are the fear we can no longer have free and fair elections in America, and the looming question of whether staying in this country would endanger my family.
On the second topic first – yes, I seriously considered leaving. I didn’t have an answer to the question of whether it was a good idea, so after voicing it to my wife a couple times I kept it to myself and wrestled with it pretty much every day of the last two years. Even before the election I concluded it didn’t make sense to move — it’s difficult and expensive, first of all, and there is hardly any guarantee that any other country (even Canada) would remain immune to this fever of nationalism that seems to be sweeping the planet. But post-election, all thought of this has vanished from my mind. It’s an enormous relief. The work I and countless others did in Minnesota kept this state blue for the most part, particularly by sweeping every statewide race, which goes a long way toward making me feel safe here — even as I recognize there are many others who do not feel that way, and still need good people fighting for them.
On the first topic — free and fair elections — it’s obvious the country’s democratic processes are not as clean as they should be. In my estimation the Georgia governor race was blatantly stolen, and rampant voter purges and “anomalies” in other states demonstrate that our democracy remains very much under attack from within. Despite nearly a decade of gerrymandered districts, though, the people spoke loudly enough to swing control of the House.
I’ll be honest with you, I did not believe that was possible. I thought the infrastructural advantage the Republicans had etched into districts around the nation would prevent it. And that barrier did blunt the impact. There are several examples where a state’s House seat allocation didn’t even come close to an accurate translation of that state’s popular vote.
So there is still a lot of work to do. But I’m glad to live in a Republic where the ability still exists to do it, and it’s good to be able to breathe again.
The Facebook post is about the slaughtered children in Texas today, and a Democratic Senate candidate going on the air to demand action. Most of the responses are Likes. At least one is a laughing face.
A laughing face.
To the user who posted it, I have to say, your response makes me wonder. How broken, how monstrous, must you be to laugh right now? If it had been your child slaughtered today, would you still find this Democrat’s outrage funny?
It is a particularly brutal response to post publicly, because Facebook, presumably, added that laughing reaction as a way for people to share joy. Laughter is one of the most fundamental of shared human experiences. It can break the tension of a hard situation. It can bring enemies together. It can dispel tears and conquer grief.
To twist it this way, to turn it into a thing of scorn in a time of such deep sorrow, is a repulsive abdication of empathy.
I wonder if you could take a step back and truly examine what it is, exactly, that you find so humorous about this situation. If you could take a look in the mirror and say to yourself: “I am a person who laughs when children are slaughtered.” Is that really something you’re comfortable with? Does there come a point when you realize that perhaps your philosophy has led you astray? That it’s transformed you so thoroughly that empathy and compassion appear to be powers you’ve lost?
Or is the philosophy so ingrained, the indoctrination so complete, that no amount of bloodshed will wipe the smirk from your face?
I think when you create a work of art, it belongs to the human race. I don’t mean from a legal perspective – I’m not talking about copyright law here, an artist deserves to be compensated for their work – but in a greater sense, beyond that artist’s life and death. At some point the trappings of legality and financial considerations fall away, whether we want them to or not, and art’s worth is judged by the degree to which humanity benefits from it. It will lift people up or open their eyes in ways beyond those which its creator may have intended. It will be admired or criticized, emulated or shunned, based on its meaning to every individual – and paradoxically, by extension, on its meaning to the species. Over time it will morph, its influence leaking into other pieces, guaranteeing it a form of immortality not unlike our own ability to procreate.
I understand that making these claims as an author will invite supposition that I’m talking about literature. I’m actually thinking more of music. What got me thinking on this topic was covers, specifically Bad Wolves’ cover of Cranberries’ Zombie. When I was younger I universally hated covers. The original is always better, leave it alone, etc. I look at them differently now.
A good cover is not an attempt to co-opt the original’s success. A good cover is a love letter. A merging of new and old, an homage and an expression of beauty. When a cover comes from a place of love and respect, you can hear it.
I thought I heard that love in the new cover of Zombie, so I did a little research. Did you know that Dolores O’Riordan, the original singer, was scheduled to record the cover WITH Bad Wolves on the day of her death? She was. When she passed away, they went ahead and recorded it without her. It isn’t just an homage or even a love letter – it is a eulogy. That rawness in the lead’s voice is real. It’s grief.
I loved the Cranberries growing up. I would listen to them in the dark, enveloped in Dolores’ voice, soaring on melancholy with my arms wide. Her death rocked me.
But it brings me deep joy to hear her voice carried forward, to learn that her influence has joined that great, eddying river of musical art that carries all of us forward. In its way, it will never leave us; it’s part of us now, and wherever that river ultimately leads, O’Riordan’s haunting voice will always glitter in its waves.
A friend of mine announced today that he has pancreatic cancer and is in hospice.
And in that bombshell of a sentence, the word I debated using the most was “friend.”
See, I’ve never met this person. I have only ever communicated with him through Facebook. I was introduced to him by a former boss, a person I had a lot of respect for, and even though she was conservative in her views, she saw that we were both secular liberals, and put us in touch. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to know him, he has made me laugh and made me feel less alone. I have come to recognize his name with joy, and respect his words. So even though I’ve never met him, I don’t hesitate to call him a friend—and I don’t even feel the need to add the qualifier “Facebook” to that word.
His communication that he was dying was honest and dignified. He said he accepted what was happening to him, that he was OK with where his journey had brought him. It was a sharp reminder that we should all be so lucky to make the same claim, and an inspiration to this atheist of what I strive for. Happiness, contentment, love. The true meaning of life, the most important things.
I have had family members die that didn’t make me cry, but I cried today for this man I never met. For the reminder that all of us have a time limit, and that all good things come to an end. For the bitter fact that life isn’t fair. Out of gratitude that I live in an age where it was possible for me to meet him without meeting him.
Social media gets a lot of flak, much of it deserved, but it is a force for good as well. Today, as I think about my dying friend, I’m thankful for it. It allowed me to not only get to know this person, but also to experience his last digital words, his acceptance of his fate. That is something I will treasure until my own time comes, when hopefully it will serve me as well as it served him.