Tuesday, November 04, 2008

as i write obama has won pennsylvania, and new hampshire, and will probably win ohio; mccain has won south carolina, tennessee and kentucky. obama has won the ones we expected- vermont, maine, mass., rhode island, maryland, delaware. it's exciting; i can't leave the computer. it's the climax of a long season; it all comes down to this specific state-by-state geographical domino system, and, though i know everyone is holding their breath, i for one have my eyes right down at domino level and intend to watch as each vote crawls in. as obama wins ohio, my native state, some are saying it's over; what about north carolina? virginia? florida?

dia de los muertos, as it turns out, means day of the dead, it was a couple of days ago, but mexicans are quick to point out that, in honoring the dead, they are really appreciating life, and not wallowing in death as some would say we do at hallowe'en. i don't know, what do i know? nor do i really know what bonfire day is, when they set fires all across britain, to keep out "the guy," or to celebrate national unity in the face of a rebel who wouldn't mind burning down parliament and all that a nation would hold dear. again, what would i know?

having put the children to bed: one said, when asked in first grade, that he liked barack, partly because "brock" is famous in the pokemon world, and partly because he knew his dad was for barack. the three-year-old said, barack sounds like broccoli. their parents said: we did it for you; it's time for the american people to take back this country and try to restore a semblance of sanity and respect to the path we are taking as a nation.

of my eighteen years of growing up, i spent at least fifteen of them in ohio and pennsylvania, and i hadn't thought much of that, until i was down in mexico traveling and found myself trying to say "pennsylvania" in spanish, as i talked about my family and childhood. i was never quite fluent in spanish, but i managed to talk a little about the u.s.a. and began to see it a little more as people from outside it see it. it's a giant in the world, and it needs the people who run it to understand the kind of role it plays in the world, and not get tripped up over the difference between "iran" and "iraq", or, "guatemala" and "el salvador," "sunni" and "shiite." it may be true that we're busy; we have to put food on the table; we try to get ahead, and all that stuff. but somebody is down at the courthouse counting the votes and throwing some of them away; the republicans tend to be better at that than the democrats, or at least they have been, the last 8 years or so, and this has hurt this nation in such a way that it may now be so difficult to repair, that it's hard to envy obama.

i didn't get to make a shrine to the dead, as they do in mexico, this year; thought about making one on the web, or someplace where i could appreciate it. as i write ohio, iowa, and new mexico are going for obama; i lived in iowa eleven years, and am proud to notice that it doesn't even waver on the fence; it's kind of like illinois in its blueness. my parents live in new mexico, and i'm proud to say, they had a role in what i'm watching now.

what sticks in my mind right now is a cartoon that i saw a little earlier about soldiers watching the election from thousands of miles away. did their brothers and sisters die in vain? that's who i'd make my shrine to, i believe, as they have been on my mind for many years. were they over there for oil? to avenge W's dad? to keep an eye on israel and palestine? were they over there to spread democracy, so that iraq could actually choose for itself who it wanted politically, which would be the shiites, probably, by the way? or perhaps to buy some time for the kurds, to make an independent state in the vacuum of power, yet without turkey's approval?

i can't answer any of these questions; i don't know why they were there, and i don't know what will come of it, under what conditions they'll leave, or what will happen next. i do know that, given a choice between people who have the interests of halliburton in mind, and people who can pronounce the names of the countries involved, i'm glad the people in my native states paid close attention, listened carefully, and gave their local vote-counters a clear message that could not be fudged or changed in the courthouses. i'd like to remember that what is happening tonight is playing out in thousands of little courthouses and precincts, in written ballots, unambiguous, countable, that lots of my fellow citizens are getting involved and watching carefully. no pierdas el tino- don't lose your aim, we sing, as we drive around town these days. and, las lluves se levantan- the clouds are lifting. the seven-year-old maintains that this last one is about elefantes, but it just sounds like that; it's about the clouds, buddy, and the rain. once when i was researching centralia, a town in illinois, i encountered an old town of centralia in pennsylvania, a ghost town, long abandoned, in coal country, where there has been a fire burning, underground, for thirty years or so. everyone is a little disturbed about this underground fire, but they abandoned the town, don't feel anyone is in immediate danger, and, what can they do? they don't want to go down there after it; that would be more dangerous than doing nothing. all through pennsylvania, i used to travel, and frequently get stuck, out in the mountains, on some god-forsaken two-lane, snaking through the alleghenies, or down on the turnpike where there are tunnels and everyone's in a hurry; this time of year, there were a lot of deer racks on the back of cars, and parts of that state felt far, very far, from the rest of the east. in ohio, i always felt the eastern hills flattening out into the vast midwest, on the other side, but i'd never fall asleep, knowing it was my native state, and having memories flooding me as i drove, actually finding some indians fans when i stopped for gas or coffee. i haven't been back there for a while, even though they are only a couple of states east of here; eight hours can be a ways, when you have little ones. my thoughts, though, jump back in minutes. the courthouses are checking in; it's almost over.

celebrating a historic occasion; it now appears that it's over, and so will this long rambling post be, sooner rather than later. it's a great country; i started traveling it in the eastern states where you can change states every hour or two, but after you get past ohio and indiana, which fly by in the middle of the night, you get out in the wide open spaces; i ended up doing forty-eight of them including alaska, after i got back from a trip down to mexico that drew me all the way down to guatemala, before i turned back. landing on the dock at key west, i kissed the ground, i was so glad to be home, but had only pesos in my pocket, and only a few of them at that. coming through northern ohio one night, you come down out of pennsylvania, and the country spreads out wide in front of you, wide and flat; in the middle of the night, i met tom petty; he was wide awake too; the story is well documented, but all i can say now is, there's times you realize, this country is millions of things big. it's home; it's the coal towns, the corn fields, the mountains and the big muddy. but the biggest thing is, it's the people. they blow it sometimes, yes, they can be accused of being short of perspective, sometimes. but they can fix stuff, too; they don't give up; and they're likely to lean toward treating people equally, if they can. and there's something to be said for that. here's one for obama's grandmother, another for the folks who died in iraq, or died on the way there, or died in their hearts, based on what they saw. yes, we were back here yapping about redistribution, and a stock market and a few hundred billion, beluga whales and a bridge to nowhere, & by the way pennsylvania had one of those also. we get a little self-absorbed, with our infighting, our $150,000 outfits, our poster art- but don't let it be said that we forgot about you. not for a moment, did that happen. life is a celebration of living, though- i'm too old for grant park, maybe, too old to go six hours up, and six more back, on a night before i teach another long day, but i'll tell you this: i'm an illinoisan now, and we're celebrating. it's the children; we had to do something for the children. they'll be paying for that war for hundreds of years, and they needed some hope, something to set them straight on the path. no pierdas el tino....las lluves se levantan...


Blogger J-Funk said...

GOBAMA! I thought about calling but it's very late there. Obama's speech brought tears to my eyes. Now I can't sleep because I'm so excited, so I'm blog-patrolling and I see you had the same problem!

12:09 AM  
Blogger Peggy said...

Illinois has cranked out some pretty wonderful presidents!

8:51 AM  

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