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Mpls, MN, United States

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Wednesday, November 07, 2012


Undergrads love to begin their essays with dictionary definitions--if I'm lucky (read: never) they'll be from the OED or Merriam-Webster. Usually they're from Sigh.

In any case, the word "conciliatory"--a word I used in last night's post, actually--has been in my head all day. I just looked it up, and in the spirit of the papers I've been grading already today (and still should be), here is Merriam-Webster's definition:

Definition of CONCILIATE*

transitive verb
1 : to gain (as goodwill) by pleasing acts
2 : to make compatible : reconcile
3 : appease
intransitive verb
: to become friendly or agreeable
The thing is, most of my friends are pretty liberal. The ones I've hung out with most over the past decade or so, the ones I met after college and in graduate school, tend to be really liberal. I get most of my news from NPR and Time Magazine, and consider it balanced not least because I do hear conservative opinions with which I disagree; my most liberal friends find those media outlets far too right-leaning.

In any case, because of the circles in which I move, I don't meet a lot of Romney supporters. Academics are a liberal bunch, and Minneapolis is a liberal city.*** Hood River is, too. Plus, I think I'm also still in a demographic young enough to favor Obama for his own relatively youthful persona and ideas. The few Romney supporters I do know tend to be friends from high school or even earlier.

There are a handful of them on Facebook, though: nine professed "like"rs of Romney/Ryan, and a few more who run Republican. I've been thinking a lot about them today, partly because, although FB has been surprisingly rather silent on topics political (after a brief outpouring of joy last night), I have seen a few posts of sadness, disappointment, and, yes, some bitterness. There were premature cries that Obama had lost the popular vote--and an identification with how Gore supporters must have felt in 2000.

In embarrassing truth, I didn't vote in that election; I was out of state and hadn't filed for an absentee ballot. I also bought into the sentiment around me that there wasn't even a substantive difference between the two candidates, though the subsequent debacle of the election, with the failure of our voting system on global display as a Floridian court handed W. the victory, appalled and horrified me.

I may have had this sticker on my car
But I do remember how it felt in 2004 to have Bush actually, legitimately, elected, by popular and electoral vote. I couldn't believe that after seeing the mess he'd made at home and abroad over the past four years (and listening to this This American Life episode!), Americans would vote to retain him. I believed then, as I do now, that there were nefarious things at play, not least the manipulation into a constant state of fear.

When he won, I was crushed. I was enraged. I was in a state of disbelief. No one had loved Kerry or anything, but we were ABBA voters--Anyone But Bush Again. Anyone. That election was to have been a referendum on Bush's failed policies, a chance to regain some face in the world--to begin to erase the embarrassment so eloquently summarized by "freedom fries."

I thought Bush was ruining our country. I still believe he did it a dire disservice, mostly by entering unnecessary and unaffordable wars--not just one (largely supported by the international community), but an ill-advised, if not illicit, unrelated attack premised on false evidence.

So I think I can identify a little bit with the friends who thought this election was their chance to oust a President they believed was leading the country down a path to ruin. By the end of his two terms, I think most people agreed that Bush had been an epic failure. It remains to be seen how people judge Obama at the end of his second. Obviously I think he's by far the better option to continue digging us out of the mess Bush left behind. But the truth takes its time to emerge, and whatever happens, right now a lot of the country is feeling sad and angry.

How, then, to conciliate? I began, and erased, many FB statuses last night. I wanted to celebrate, but I didn't want to gloat or provoke. I went on a "liking" spree of friends' euphoric posts, but couldn't bring myself to post my own, although I'd posted several politically-themed links over the past several weeks and wasn't exactly in the closet about supporting Obama. I settled on a quote from Jon Stewart's live coverage: "Perhaps the fever has broken." 

This morning I changed my profile picture from the "I Voted" sticker I'd had up since submitting my ballot by mail, replacing it with a picture of me grinning hugely as I hold my tiny new niece, whose eyes are wild and mouth agape as she seems to throw a miniature gang sign. I figured it was just absurd enough to pass my personal only-me-in-my-profile-pic rule, and might--as I think of it in light of the earlier definition--be a pleasing act to gain me some goodwill.

Because I've been feeling kind of like a bad guy! I haven't been nearly as strident as some of my friends, in fora virtual or otherwise. But I did (and, okay, do; I'm still working on that) think Romney supporters were making the wrong, wrong, wrong choice. I was terribly relieved that Obama was re-elected. I'm proud to be an American, and want to celebrate! But it hurts to be on the losing side, especially when you believe passionately, as it seems so many of us did.

So, friend who posted about the impending destruction of all small business (though he appears to have subsequently removed it), I'm sorry. Friend who requested time and space to "lick our wounds," I'm sorry. I know how it feels to believe the apocalypse is upon you.

I can only hope that the fever has broken. I hope that Washington will be able to actually get necessary work done. I hope that we can all still be friends. Really.

*Apparently "in the top 10% of lookups"** at their website
**Firefox's spellchecker doesn't accept "lookups" as a valid word
***The day after the Vice-Presidential debate, a little old lady struck up a conversation with me in line at the post office, in a thick accent criticizing the arrogant young Ryan and his rude behavior. When I asked where she was originally from, she told me she was from Poland--and as a young teenager had smuggled explosives across enemy lines during the Soviet occupation!


Roots and Ladders said...

How exciting to see posts from you again! Hooray Nablopomo!

Love your empathy, Ceri. I'm in a bit of a different situation since most of my Facebook feed is filled with Conservatives (the majority being family and high school friends). I actually disabled my FB account awhile ago in part to escape the political rantings. It's difficult because the posts can be so provoking that it's hard not to respond but then at the same time, I know I've been just as... passionate? in the past and I can't really be mad at anyone else for having that same kind of passion. But I CAN take a FB break! :) Unfortunately, that means that I miss out on seeing pictures of your brand new niece! Congrats!

Carissa said...

I'm glad you're posting again. I always enjoy your writing.

BrianV said...

This was a very good and thoughtful post. I'm probably not as liberal as you, and not quite as suspicious of past election results. I tend to think Mitt Romney probably would have been an OK president. I certainly think he would have been much better than Bush.

But in every other way I agree with you. I too, was completely astounded when Kerry lost in 2004----I couldn't believe that we'd put the guy who started the Iraq war back into office even after his claims of WDM's were proven to be grossly mistaken.

Either way, there are some interesting parallels with this election, maybe down to the fact that people gave Bush some leeway, not blaming him, personally, for the bad intelligence, and us not blaming Mr. Obama for the fact that the economic comeback has been slower than his team had suggested it would be.

All said and done, I'm not sure that a slow comeback is entirely a bad thing. My biggest concern about Romney is that he would be true to his tax-cutting claims, and that things like capital gains would get an extra break, and encourage the kinds of bad investments we had previously, and we'd grow another false economy that would burst for some pour soul who took office after him.

Either way, I too resisted the urge to go on Facebook and celebrate after Mr. Obama won. But to some extent, I think it represents the kind of rational thinking our country was missing in 2004 . . . a rejection of obsessing over religious ideologies and attrocious fear-mongering like the swift-boat attacks. I was pleased to see that the right's efforts to paint Mr. Obama as a coward who was intentionally trying to mislead the nation about a national tragedy abroad, never seemed to take hold in a meaningful way. People are becoming more cynical of these kinds of attacks, and that's a good thing.

CëRïSë said...

Thanks, Mandy and Carissa!

And Brian, thanks for your as-always balanced input! I think you're spot on that this does mark a return to more rational election-time thinking. Most importantly for me, I think it also marks a rejection of the fear-mongering, exlcusionary viewpoints and policies that don't benefit us as a country. A Romney election would have been, I think--even though many of his supporters distanced themselves on these issues--a real step back for the enfranchisement of gays, minorities, women, and other "others." I could be wrong. But the electorates' refusal to elect a party that chose those things as issues seems to me a very positive sign indeed.