Election Day approaches
Amidah tensions


This blog exists to focus on Judaism. I don't intend to change that. But yesterday's election shook me so profoundly that I feel compelled to respond to it in words. We'll return to our usual religion-related programming first thing tomorrow. Meanwhile, my nutshell reaction to the American election is this: given the state of our economy, given the quagmire in Iraq, given the hash that Mr. Bush has made of our international reputation, I am stunned that he won the presidency. And I am scared and saddened to realize how out-of-step I apparently am with the majority of people in my country.

I weep at the anti-gay measures that passed around the nation, and I boggle at the realization that so many Americans apparently support Mr. Bush despite his notion that he's on a mission from God, despite the recession, despite our bungling of the Iraq war (especially our unforgiveable abuses of power at Abu Ghraib) and despite this administration's blatant isolationism. It makes me wonder whether I belong here. This doesn't feel like my country.

And in a way, it's not. I have to face the awareness that this country is a house divided. My America is liberal, tolerant, interested in globalism; in my America religion is post-triumphalist and universalist and coexists happily with science; in my America all people, regardless of sexual orientation, are entitled to the rights and privileges of citizenship, marriage among them. But my America is a marginal America, and the bulk of the nation feels differently. The chasm which divides us is deep and I don't know how, or whether, it can be bridged.

I'm giving myself the day to grieve, and I've been moving steadily through those five stages everybody talks about. I know that despair is neither responsible nor tenable longterm; action and faith are called-for. I hope that by tomorrow, or by next week, I'll be able to take a deep breath, look at the situation clearly, and figure out what I can do and which stone most needs my shoulder.

For now, at least I can express myself. If you have access to the BBC's The World Today, give it a listen this evening, around 10:30pm London time, or 5:30pm here where I am. I'm going to be chatting with them briefly, to give them the point of view of an ordinary American who is mourning this election result. At least I can affirm that this nation is not monolithic, and that many of us are reeling from today's news. We are grieving, and I think that's reasonable. It's fair to sit shivah for our lost hopes before we face the work of moving on.


Edited to add: On The World Today, they read some listener emails responding to the election, and played a clip of a gentleman from Arizona who's delighted about the Bush win and thinks the rest of us should "stop whining." Then they interviewed me, beginning by reading one line of an email in which I said I'd been crying all morning.  The interviewer asked whether that was still true; my answer to that, and to her next few questions, can be heard here in Real Player format and here in Windows Media format for the next two weeks.