in the Life
November 14, 2002
Wednesday, November 6, 2002...
Sitting here in my recently acquired San Francisco office,
I peer out at the Transamerica Pyramid and up to Columbus
Street and Coit Tower. My recent move to this beautiful city
has infused one of the more difficult and traumatic times
of my life with a possibility of some brighter and more hopeful
ones to come. This day is not bright, however. I wish the
sun would come out like it usually does in the early or mid
afternoon here. Today, instead, the thin gray film that usually
coats the mornings in San Francisco is hanging on. And it's
probably just as well. Scant moments can I recall when the
lyrics to "A Day in the Life" have been more applicable than
they are today. "I read the news today, oh boy…"
And I did. Actually I got the gist of the mid-term election
results last night, but that eerie verse repeated in my head
every time I passed a newspaper stand on the way to work.
It played as if on an endless loop as I walked among the listless,
faceless throng on their way to do exactly what I have come
to do: to work. To earn for themselves or their families,
to make ends meet, to make their way in the world. I read
the news today, and I was horrified and brutalized and felt
the years and years of oppression that this country has afflicted
on so many defenseless and unsuspecting people.
Did I? Not really. To feel the weight of all that would crush
the strongest and most steadfast of persons. Would crush entire
armies. But I'm speechless and offended; mortified and confused;
sullen and weary. Is it possible to feel all of those emotions
at once? In the dark hours of my walk home, a heavy gloom
descends upon me and I am struck with the wretched realization
that those cursed with the penchant for thinking out the consequences
of such an election are destined for paranoia and loneliness.
And so I wonder, why me? Why do I feel paranoid and depressed
and sick with fear and unease? Because I know what this election
means? I don't think so. After all, the rest of the country
is privy to the same information, and most of them seem to
be doing just fine. About two-thirds of voters know what I
know. The ones who voted to give unchecked authority to this
dangerous president, and the ones who voted for the party
that would have checked that authority. They know. The remaining
third, the "independents" and the "swing voters," who were
left scratching their heads, feeling extremely confused about
the issues that most directly affect them, are the ones that
have no clue.
But the people have spoken. Today their message to this President
seems to be: "Before this November 5th, 2002, you did not
have enough power to assert the will of this great nation
here and abroad, so take it now. Take more. Do what needs
to be done to silence any and all who defy the new 'Pax Americana.'
Oh, and kill a bunch of brown people while you're at it."
I don't know why Democrats lost so resoundingly. Neither
does Terry McAuliffe or Al Gore or Tom Daschle or Dick Gephardt
or James Carville. We are all stunned. When one sits back
and looks merely at the issues on the plate of the average
voter - the economy, healthcare, prescription drugs - it's
a wonder the Democrats didn't score landslide victories across
the board. Hell, the economy alone could have won it for them!
Democrats had all the important economic facts on their side.
All they had to say was,. "here's where the economy was when
George Bush took office in 2001 . . . and here's where it
is now." It doesn't get much easier than that.
But voters decided in favor of the ridiculous Republican
rebuttal to these hard economic facts: "Congressional Democrats
have thwarted every attempt the President has made to pass
a budget plan." Well, of course Congress didn't pass a plan
that cuts taxes at a time when consumer confidence is suffering,
the stock market is collapsing and we face a war that could
very well last until the final days of the human race! Which
Democrat provided this logical retort? Was it Tom Daschle?
Dick Gephardt? Hillary Clinton? None of the above. It took
TV Pundit James Carville to make the point, way too late,
for the hapless Democrats. It was as though the Democratic
leadership couldn't think up, much less utter, the term "fiscal
irresponsibility" when it came time to make a case against
the President's budget plan.
But maybe they did and I just didn't hear about it. Leading
up to the election the media spin was incredible. What I am
coming to understand about politics is that it has always
been about the spin. That it's never been about putting forth
the truth in the form of a political agenda and getting to
the heart of issues that are closest to the people who do
the working and living and dying in this country.
I'm walking home now. I see the paper. I read the news today,
Woodrow Wilson said, "Liberty has never come from the government.
Liberty has always come from the subjects of government. The
history of liberty is the history of resistance. The history
of liberty is a history of the limitation of governmental
power, not the increase of it." Years later, Harry Truman
said: "Once a government is committed to the principle of
silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to
go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures,
until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and
creates a country where everyone lives in fear." America,
in its patriotic quest to win back all the "innocence" and
unfettered financial freedoms it had before 9/11, has voted
to set us on the very path about which President Truman warned.
What of the liberties that we talk about over dinner, in courtrooms,
or when putting our hands over our hearts to pledge to our
flag? What of the liberties won by the blood of so many young
Americans? They have been imperiled by America's vote to give
this President such power.
I worry about the future of this nation. I worry about what
kind of country, what kind of world, we will leave for our
But that is not what I worry about the most this day. This
day, as I walk home with The Beatles ringing in my head, I
worry about the federal judges. The lifetime appointments
given to those who will be interpreting the laws that govern
Will our drug laws become even more draconian? Will a woman
in America keep the right to choose? Will we preserve the
natural treasures that make up our landscape? Are we ushering
in a new era of xenophobia and religious discrimination? What
about scientific discovery and experimental medicine? Will
they be trumped by our own brand of religious zealotry? What
about education and poverty and homelessness? What about heath
care? What about pollution?
That's when the questions become too much and I stop in front
of another newspaper machine. "I read the news today, oh boy;
about a lucky man who made the grade; and though the news
was rather sad; I just had to laugh..." So today I am scared.
I feel a lump in my throat and I am going to smoke more tonight
and probably get drunk. I wish I had another remedy. I wish
my side were the victor so that I could be reveling and looking
forward to some Congressional resistance to this President,
who said: "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of
a lot easier...just as long as I'm the dictator."
My greatest fear is that I am about to see America get the
government it voted for.