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.