I have a gong and I know how to use it.
I live in Virginia, whose tortuous vote count finally plumped for Barack Obama seconds before the West Coast results came in at eleven. I didn’t even have time to take in the home state returns before news outlets called a national victory for Obama.
I took the gong out on my front porch, wound up my Arm-and-Hammer right-hand swing, and gave it thirteen — one for each electoral vote in the state where I grew up, the state I thought would never come through. In fact, I was swinging for the nation I thought would never come through.
I am fifty-four years old this month. Damn near my earliest memory is of John Fitzgerald Kennedy saying “Ask what you can do for your country.” I watched the 1960’s go down in flames: Kennedy’s brains splattered into his wife’s lap in Dallas, Martin Luther King’s nonviolent activism and his dream incinerated in the smoke of downtown Washington burning, Bobby Kennedy’s candidacy erased, police batons in Chicago. I have watched mistrust and selfishness and alienation take root in this country until it seemed as if the national motto was “Fuck You and Hooray For Me.”
It is not a partisanship thing. I know damn well that Kennedy was the son of a corrupt machine — but still, he could make people think of something bigger than themselves, and so could his little bro. I voted for Gerald Ford in 1976 because he was intelligent and moderate and did not ask to have the sins of Richard Nixon foisted upon him, and because Jimmy Carter was just this side of a Jesus-shouter who sounded and looked exactly like my mother’s pig-ignorant Babtist relatives from up the road in South Georgia. I voted for Carter in 1980 because Ronald Reagan was an obvious, cynical sellout to the rich and bastardly control-freaks, and heartless was worse even than stupid.
For most of my life I have lived in a nation where the leadership essentially sent the message that I did not belong.
I love decency more than profit.
I am an Amazon who believes that no one has any goddam business issuing prescriptions about anyone else’s personal life, be it marital, merely sexual, or reproductive.
I am violently agnostic and nearly vomit when people mix the provincial, debased, almost voodoo Christianity of hellfire TV preachers with electoral politics.
I want my country to have the respect of the rest of the world.
I’m tired of people who act as if humans were the only species that count.
I’m sick of superstitious idiots and anti-intellectuals who regard praying and believing as a substitute for learning and understanding.
Richard Nixon’s America wasn’t home to me. Ronald Reagan’s America? Forget it. George H. W. Bush? Sold out to the Jesus-shouters and the profiteers. Bill Clinton, couldn’t you have kept it in your pants? I don’t care, but you knew how many people would. Dubya? I quote a client of a dear colleague: “I’m eighty-three and I’ve seen a lot, but I never thought I’d live to see this country bein’ run by a retard.”
When the Democratic heat came down to a contest between a woman and a black man I thought God Love You Both In An Alternate Universe, but the voters will always roll over and play dead for Big White Daddy (and his Uncle Moms) because this is the America of the Puritans and the Know-Nothings. I shelved hope, I really did. I hated to hear Obama using the word. And I have no illusions about what is facing this country. It’s going to be a bumpy fucking ride for a long time yet.
But Son Of A Bitch, look at this.