The Amazing Day......
Not President-Elect Obama, or Senator Obama, or Presidential Candidate Obama.....
It still isn't sinking in.
I have always thought that George Bush/John McCain's perverse hold on poor working people was some bizarre version of Swedish Hostage Syndrome. How else could the Republicans continually convince working people to vote for a group that systematically stripped away their jobs and shipped them overseas, destroyed their educational opportunities, ignored their decaying infrastructure, and cursed them with vehicles too wasteful and expensive to drive to the jobs they no longer had, or to the welfare office that no longer gave them benefits.
I didn't realize how pervasive the Swedish Hostage Syndrome was. I was even part of it.....so was my family.
My oldest son and my middle son voted in their first presidential election in 2000......and it was stolen. Their second vote was 2004. Enough said. My youngest had only the 2004 experience to guide him.
All of them had been raised to expect that democracy is sacred, and we live in a government of the people, by the people, blah, blah, blah.
All they have experienced since high school is a government of the corrupt, by the corrupt, for the corrupt. Lies are truth. Truth is a lie. Fact is fiction. Fictions are fact. Science is religion. Religion is science.
Not to mention the utter bankruptcy of our society. I am not talking about the recent economic crash. This is old news if you graduated from Carmel High in 1999. It has been made very clear to you for years now that if you don't have a trust fund......you will never own your own house. Better be nice to Pops.....because you will be living in his house for decades. You will be lucky to afford your own rent.
I won't go into the whole "Yes, We Can" thing, or the "Audacity of Hope" thing. For our young people this was a dream.....The idea that normal people could have some say in what goes on in their lives? A vague promise, probably another switch-and-bait. American Idol is popular for reasons best left unexamined.
Anyway.....Tuesday morning dawned really early. Amanda had committed to shepherding Juan Romero.....one of our Project People....through the voting process.
Juan is a referral from Susan Singer...one of the three or four smartest and most intuitive people I have ever met. Juan is a recovering gang guy who once died on the operating table behind an ice overdose....and bailed on school, but is still a math and physics genius. He met Susan in her GED class, which he aced while barely awake. He turned 18 in mid September....and Amanda registered him to vote on the very last hour of the very last day. Trying to convince him that his vote matters, that he matters, that his participation matters. A tough sell.
Juan lives in Castroville....and we drive him back and forth to work in Cachagua for reasons way to complicated for this post. Suffice it to say that it ain't about Jesus. Getting up on your only morning off and driving an hour and a half each way to save a kid gets to be like work real fast. Empathy and charity may be their own reward.....but it ain't in this lifetime. Trust me.
Juan's mom lives in East Salinas very close to Alisal High School. His ID is at mom's, so when he registered to vote...that is where he wound up.
Early on Tuesday, we looked up Juan's polling place and all rallied to the cause. Amanda, Juan, Grandpuppy and I all trundled down to our polling place so we could show the kid how it works. His previous experiences with authority had always involved him being wrong, criminal and stupid....except for Susan Singer.....so there was some ground to cover.
When we arrived at the CDF station that is our polling place, everyone in the joint was someone who had been at The Store the night before: Pat the musician, Richard Crane, Leslie Drew, etc. Everyone knew Juan and gave him a big welcome. "First time voter! Right On!"
The booths were full, so Amanda and Juan sat on the couch to fill out her ballot.
We had gone over all the issues a million times, and hashed them all out while chopping fennel and shucking oysters: Yes on 2, No on 4, No on 7,8,10......Still Amanda fucked up her ballot, which was a good lesson. Juan helped her turn it in.....no big deal..... and she did it right. There were even cookies.
Amanda had never been in East Salinas. The polling place was a Victory Mission....side entrance, on a side street off Williams Road opposite Alisal High. Forget Sarajevo, Hillary......us soccer folks have taken bullets at Alisal High for wrong decisions in a high school game. Indian Country.
As they turned into the side street of the polling place they passed a god-forsaken trailer park that makes Jensen Camp seem like Pebble Beach. Right on the corner of the side street and Williams was a particularly vulnerable trailer........buffeted by the four lane traffic from Williams and the economic winds from hell.
Amanda: "Ohmigod. Those poor people. I feel sorry for whoever lives in that corner trailer. Life must be hell."
Juan: "That is my grandma's place."
At the polling place, the people were possibly even more gracious, kind and supportive than in Cachagua. There were old white ladies who had been there for decades, some Latina moms and grannies, and a super-smart black lady. They walked Juan through the process while Amanda watched.
Juan voted.....and came out of the process beaming......and literally floating off the ground.
Hope. Connection. Power.
We called a Victory/Seppuku Party at The Store to monitor events with a supportive group. As usual I was working my ass off on details when I got a call from Brendan at about 4:30 pm.
"Dad......they are doing it again. They are saying that the polls were wrong and the early results are all McCain....and they are talking about President McCain!"
Awww....fuck. I felt that same old leaden pull of disappointment and delusion that I have been experiencing for eight years....ever since the monumental hangover in Italy with Carolynn that caused the Bush Presidency.
Multiplied by a thousand by the fear and despair in Brendan's voice.
I was too busy to check reality on dial-up or CNN at The Store. Instead I snarled and slashed at everyone that I came in contact with....
Juan called......he had heard the same reports as Brendan. Multiply the guilt and helplessness by another thousand. Did I lie to them? Did I give them false hope?
I did the task-oriented thing....and plunged ahead. Mesquite grilled the tri-tip. Made the pizza dough and showed Borja how to make world class pies. Fixed the satellite and the projector, chilled the champagne.....and tried not to weep with despair.
Brendan arrived after a day of digging ditches. We just stared at each other......
Later that night there were lots of reasons people were weeping......for different reasons.
I was thinking of Brendan......but mostly about Juan.
The Audacity of Hope, indeed.