Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hope Wins; How We Heard the News in the Reddest Part of a Blue State

It was fascinating being stuck in a hospital bed for the election and the ensuing returns. I had gotten myself into some pretty brisk conversations around town over the past few weeks when I'd hear something like "Oh, I'd vote for that Obama, but I heard on the radio that he's a Muslim." No matter how I tried to lay out what I saw as the truth, I had the feeling that most of the people I saw on a daily basis would never vote for a black man, no matter what other reasons they gave for their choice.

Now that I was hospitalized for my knee replacement I knew that I was in a weak position and that I shouldn't irritate my caregivers with my liberal opinions, but I got right into it in the recovery room when, through my slowly clearing anesthetic haze, I heard one nurse say to another, "...I heard that he's a Muslim and that he won't salute the American flag." I surprised us all by snapping "he isn't and he does, too!" They must have figured I'd recovered enough and zipped me right on out of there and down the hall to my bed in the post surgery wing.

Once installed in my own hospital room (private, airless, noisy, stinky, never a chance for ten minutes of uninterrupted sleep in three nights) I cautiously approached the subject of the election whenever my nurses would bring it up. I've learned the caution because this is such a "red" place and my mother taught me to be nice to everyone. Let me say right here that my nurses were wonderful and caring and I loved them all, politics aside. But many of them were very fearful of the possibility of an Obama Presidency, believing that he represented some foreign influence, and that he would nationalize medicine and pay them minimum wage. Or that, God forbid, he'd take their guns away or recognize gay rights. Not many of them liked Sarah Palin, but they liked the idea of domestic drilling in the nearby Texas and New Mexico oil fields. They honestly liked that "drill, baby, drill" business and thought it a catchy thing to chant.

However, invisible signals were passed, and those few of us who were Obama supporters were soon known to each other--A young woman (I'll call her Josette), here with her military husband, who was from France and who was aware of how America has lost its reputation among the countries of the world over the past eight years; the African American student nurse assigned to me who was feeling politically isolated here in "West Texas" (I'll call her Emily); and me, a white knee patient in late middle age (I prefer to call it that) who has somehow been lucky enough to be surrounded by liberal and thoughtful people all my life.

When the election results were called and America found that, miracle of miracles, we had a new President-Elect called Obama, I pressed the nurse's call button, hoping to see a blue nurse so that I could share the incredible news. Alas, they sent me an angry looking Texas girl. I was sobbing so hard by that time, watching Jesse Jackson's tear-streaked face in the celebrating Grant Park crowd, that she got frightened and ran off to find Emily. Emily came running, fearful that I had somehow hurt myself or was in some other sort of medical trouble when she heard that her patient was having a fit of wild hysteria.

I managed to get Emily to close the door, pointed at the TV and sobbed "he won!" When she understood what I was talking about I handed her the box of kleenex and we wept for joy together. Josette eventually found her way to us and we all rejoiced, doing triumphant fist jabs, weeping, and feeling great hope on our tiny blue island in the middle of an angry red sea.

13 comments:

Jean (aka Auntie Bucksnort) said...

Amen. This is like a foreign country to me here in NM, having grown up in the SF Bay Area and having recently moved here from equally as progressive Portland ME. So I can testify that it's truly a gift to find someone who "understands"; someone who "gets it" rather than those who regurgitate vile knee-jerk bible-thumping garbage.

I have nothing against Christians if they respect their true Christian values, but the TurboChristians who hate anyone who doesn't look like them or "worship" like them have no place in my heathen heart.

Sylvia K said...

First of all, welcome home and I hope you're doing well. Secondly, you made my morning with the word picture you painted of election night! It has been so wonderful to see all the joy and excitement all over this country and I was truly proud of it for the first time in a long time. Again, welcome home, missed you and hope the new knee has you up and jumping soon!

Margie's Musings said...

Absolutely! I am happy you are doing better and so happy about the election. It will be so good to have a president with a brain.

June Saville said...

Good that you are so chirpy Clair. Mind you the election result would have helped despite the red surrounds. Loved the yarn.
The progressive people around me were hysterical enough so I can only imagine what it must have been like in the States.
Take care
June in Oz

Rain said...

Glad to hear you are home and yes, a lot of tears were shed last week. :)

Jessie From the Block said...

Oh, how I love to read your blog. Congrats on the successful surgery. I am excited to know there is a little blue in my soon to be new home of Clovis, NM...

If you have some time to read this, it is an interesting perspective. I am a Philly girl born and bred, as blue as they come, but this town is about 20 minutes away from where I grew up. Anyway, just wanted to show you progress is being made. People are becoming more and more open... hopefully soon in Texas and NM, too... although I won't hold my breath!! :)

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/09/weekinreview/09sokolove.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

clairz said...

Thank you all for reading and for your good wishes. The knee recovery is going much faster than the first one did.

Jessie, it sure means a lot to me to have a new reader, and especially one who finds the blog helpful.

Thank you for recommending the New York Times article on the Levittown voters. Clovis is a long, long way from New York, but one of our rituals here at the Zee household is reading aloud great stuff from our NY Times online subscription to each other, especially on leisurely Sunday mornings. The Levittown article made the cut and we marveled over it.

We especially love everything by Frank Rich, Paul Krugman, Gail Collins, and the wonderful Maureen Dowd. They provide the kind of commentary we're not hearing ANYWHERE nearby...

Judy said...

I am so glad you came through your surgery o.k. and I, too, am in the middle of a red state. In fact, our state was the first one to go for McCain. I stayed up all night watching the returns and the speeches. You are so right, "Hope Wins".

Val said...

What a great story! The happiness of last week still is bring tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing this. I hope you are feeling better.

Erikka said...

Clair this was really well written for being a "biased" piece of writing. Though you were out to sea for this election, know that people the land over, probably the WORLD over, were all weeping and hugging and dancing and celebrating along with you. You are not alone!!!

Erikka said...

and ps. i hope for you a speedy recovery.

Going Crunchy said...

Oh that is too funny!

And I will shameless steal the TurboChristian phrase. Gosh, I love it when I find a new phrase.

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

I found you from Going Crunchy's blog. Great story. I really enjoyed it and related to it because I moved from Jersey to Oklahoma and now here to Virginia and I had no idea that people in America were this close-minded, intolerant, bigoted. But I quickly learned that if we wanted to get along, I had to keep "a lid on it." For example, I put an Obama bumper sticker on my truck but I got one that said, "VETERANS for Obama," even though I'm not a veteran. Otherwise I know my truck would have gotten keyed. And my daughter is afraid to tell the kids that we occasionally go to a Unitarian church. Or that we believe gays should be allowed to get married if they want to. I thought this was the south, not another planet.

I don't know how to post links but you might enjoy some stories I wrote about this for my blog:

Check out "Some Reasons People Will Vote For McCain/Palin" on Oct. 2, 2008, "Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is," on Oct. 24, 2008, and my favorite "How Sarah Palin Turned Me Off Religion," on Nov. 17, 2008.