I feel that it’s important to record my feelings today. I do not, however, feel capable of doing so.
I think we are on the verge, this country of mine and the world it so dominates, on the verge of something new. I don’t know what. I can’t guess what. I can imagine that fifty years from now we look back on yesterday’s election as the violent death throes of the white-nationalist patriarchy in the US, a moment when the racist rump stood athwart history saying no before they were run over. I can also imagine that fifty years from now we look back on yesterday’s election as the last gasp of democratic self-government, when because a few hundred thousand people in North Carolina and Pennsylvania didn’t or couldn’t vote, the whole two-century experiment failed.
I don’t know. Neither do you.
In one sense, I think it’s important to point out that we are not, today, a fundamentally different people than we were last week, or that we would have been had those few hundred thousand votes come in. The three hundred million souls that were here are the three hundred million souls that are here. Elections are important, but in a democracy the people are where the power comes from and the people haven’t changed. Had Hillary Clinton won, the racists, anti-Semites, misogynists, xenophobes and homophobes—the whole basket of deplorables—would not have ceased to exist. When Donald Trump won, the liberals and progressives, the fighters for diversity and change, the children and grandchildren of immigrants, the Others, the pantsuits and the folk who felt the Bern—if I can presume to say it, y’all Gentle Readers, did not cease to exist.
On the other hand, it’s very important to point out that because of yesterday’s election the country will change. Aside from the usual stuff (I of course think that the policies and preferences of Hillary Clinton (f’r’ex) will lead to less misery and more comfort than those of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan) there’s the unpredictable outrages that are bound to happen with an ignorant, incompetent and unqualified President. And worse, one who is not bound by Party ties. I hope he won’t be as bad at the job as I imagine, but can imagine him being very bad indeed. And of course the worst will be emboldened, on-line and over the air and on the beat and in the back rooms. I have several nightmare scenarios that I can’t keep out of my head, and many of them seem frighteningly plausible and involve real danger to people I love. The mildest I can expect is that this country once again becomes a place where the most vicious, vile and hateful language gets regularly used against Jews, women, marginalized genders and orientations, people of color, immigrants, foreigners and the impoverished. Workplace rights, access to the courts, funding for education and the arts, well, those are things that are part of our regular discourse and while I believe what I believe very strongly, I also believe very strongly that democratic self-government means that the results of elections, not my own opinions, dictate policies and preferences. I’m afraid that this will be something different.
And…I am not suggesting that we look for silver linings, but one thing that is obvious (again) is that fund-raising does not win elections. Rich candidates can’t buy elections out of their own pockets, either. Advertising doesn’t win elections. A terrific convention doesn’t win an election and a lousy one doesn’t lose one. Endorsements don’t win elections. Even field offices, data superiority and ground games don’t win elections. Ballots cast by voters win elections. That isn’t a reason for optimism that the government we elect will govern well, mind you, and it won’t ease the suffering caused by bad policies or reckless incompetence. It’s just something to think about, going on.
And we will go on. Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus, you know. We will deal with the world because we must. Not because we are strong, or noble, or destined for victory, or perseverant or kind or just, or because we are anything but compelled by the world to deal with it as it is.
I’m hoping that I will find words to write about all this stuff coherently before too long passes. First, though, I want to write some more about Ecclesiastes, because I don’t want to let that fall. And I want to write up the Elvis Costello concert I went to last weekend, because that was awesome and I would enjoy writing it up and perhaps y’all would enjoy reading it, and awesome things are awesome still. And I maybe I will go on some auditions next week, and maybe if I do I will write about those. And then, maybe, I’ll be able to write about it a way forward. Today, we go on without any idea of a way forward. Today, we go on together, giving strength we don't have and drawing strength from each other who have none, either. Today, we go on because we must.
Today, we note that terrifying feeling of being on the verge of something, and the fear that it is something terrible. And the fear that—look, my little family of queers and kikes will probably be safe in our liberal enclave. Probably, at least for a while, although of course things can get worse. It can happen here, too. In case the angel of history casts her eyes on us now, November 9, 2016, as she is being blown backwards in time, as one part of the pile of debris flung up by the ruin of time, let us all make note of how we feel today: I have wept, dear angel, on and off since I woke up this morning. Wept in fear and desolation. Wept for my daughter, wept for my country. Wept in anger and confusion. I don’t like living on the verge of something new, dear angel of history, any more than you like be blown backward through it. The world I was born into has been extraordinarily good to me, better of course than I deserve, and I know that much of my comforts and delights are unearned. I want that wonderful life for my daughter and my son, and for your daughters and sons and for everyone’s. I can still hope that whatever is coming will be good, maybe better than what I have had, but even that hope scares me, much less the likelihood of catastrophe that this election seems to herald.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,