Posted by: facetothewind | November 30, 2004

The Day After the Election – for NPR

The Day After
A short essay on the morning of defeat for the Democrats
written for NPR but never aired
By David Gilmore

Yesterday I went walking our precinct and calling lists of Democrats to make sure they had voted. For the past year and a half, I’ve devoted no less than 20% of my waking thoughts to it, surfing the web, checking polls, writing essays. Now it’s all over. The country didn’t deliver what I had hoped for but you know what I found the most interesting during the course of my day of running around with the impassioned democrats yesterday?

I noticed the ant pile in front of 4760 N. Haskell. It was a perfectly constructed volcano of sand. Each grain was laid out in perfect order and placed outside the hole according to its size. The tiny bright red beasts were scurrying about unconcerned with what was going on just a few feet away as we dropped literature on the doorstep. They were not running below ground to check the exit polls on CNN.

In the back seat of the car being whisked about the precinct, I noticed the soft curls of black hair on the back of Peyton’s neck descending from beneath his baseball cap. I noticed how he blinked his girlish eyelashes repeatedly whenever his agitated father at the wheel was stern with him.

After hours of channel surfing at a party, I stepped outside to notice the half moon lying on its back over the desert, illuminating the jagged mountain peaks while inside the country shifted toward the red, chiefly based on morality. As a homosexual, I knew they were talking about my life without even knowing me. I blushed slightly but no one could see in the dark. Could they be right? Maybe I don’t deserve to marry and maybe my moral compass is spinning?

The brief flush of embarrassment at THAT thought was nothing compared to how I feel having wasted so much of my creative focus on politics. I stopped playing the piano and singing. I stopped writing poetry. I remembered when asked what to do in times of great political strife, Arundhati Roy simply said, “make art.”

But, while the republican balloon drop over the podium began, coyotes began screaming in the desert like children. I drove home along the empty streets of Tucson with my windows open. I drove past the Raddison Hotel knowing that a downer party must be well under way with democrats consoling one another.

I took a Xanax to calm my nerves and the pain of chewed off fingernails and fell asleep with the TV on just after Jim Lehrer signed off.

This morning instead of tuning in to hear a concession speech, I got out of bed, and turned the heat on to warm the chilly house. I opened the piano like a shop keeper would turn the sign saying “open for business.” I boiled a cup of water and fished the tea leaves out of my cup. Then I checked the olives curing in the kitchen. I had left them too long. They had mold growing on them.

Today I’m going to work in the garden and sing. The aloes out back need to be separated and transplanted. The fountain needs leveling and I just got a new Leonard Cohen song to work on.

So while the political winners sit smugly, the losers wringing their hands, I’ll be waiting for my first hummingbird to come and bathe at the nipple of my fountain. Had things been different last night, I knew that I too would have been sitting smugly with a the admittedly empty satisfaction of knowing that a majority thinks like me. But not today.

British poet William Blake wrote: “I am really sorry to see my countrymen trouble themselves about politics. If men were wise, the most arbitrary princes could not hurt them. If they are not wise, the freest government is compelled to be a tyranny. Princes appear to me to be fools. Houses of Commons & Houses of Lords appear to me to be fools; they seem to me to be something else besides human life.”

Onward.

David Gilmore is the host of Outright Radio on Public Radio International

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