November 4, 2004
The Morning After
By JULES RABIN
I'm groggy for want of sleep as I jot down these notes on the morning
after the election debacle of November 2, 2004.
It's a gray, chill day here in the north of Vermont. A high wind is
blowing through the tall autumn grasses. I don't relish the prospect of
joining the vigil to be held in Montpelier a few hours from now, that is
supposed somehow to take account of this monumental election. This vigil
will be a continuation, with timely amendments, of the weekly vigil that has
gone on in Montpelier for two years, beginning in the long ago days when it
seemed that war with Iraq could be averted.
Depleted by lack of sleep and the terrible news of a clear Republican
sweep of the Presidency and both Houses of Congress, I feel like a Samson
shackled, shorn, and under sentence. I don't have any notion of emulating
Samson's apocalyptic feat of vengeance; but I envy him the late miracle that
his connection with the God of his fathers brought to him.
On this Morning After, I feel shorn of my power, stopped in my tracks.
I don't yet allow myself to think in detail of the terms of the sentence
America has passed on itself, to live on for 4 more years under a system of
heartless and addled Republicanism. Who, in our now-shredded government,
will have the power or the guts to gainsay a triumphant Bush and his
exultant cohort in the Administration and Congress?
I've been wincing, politically, for too much of my life. In the last 4
decades there were successive bad times full epochs, they were -- of the
Vietnam war, and the successive administrations of Nixon, Reagan, and the
dynastic Bushes. The habit and necessity of withstanding, together with the
recurrent wincing that has been my -- our -- lot, now take on the character
of a lifelong sentence.
It's romantic and a tease to escape into the wish to have been born in
another time and place. I have vagrant fantasies of another kind of life
that a person, enough like me to be myself, could have lived in one of the
better corners of Scandinavia or Tuscany.
There is, after all, something savage, selfish, and otherwise morally
unkempt in the forms and practises of American conservatism that suffuse the
vast interior of our country, the part that on the election maps is colored
red. Living tolerably well in civil Vermont, am I an alien in Greater
"This land is your land, this land is my land," goes the soupy song.
But I feel the life is being squeezed out of me by the heavy weight of the
Conservatism whose prevalence has just been certified for four more years,
thanks to the winner-takes-all nature of our election system, that leaves
the defeated 49% to gasp under the fat ass of the 51%.
I titled these reflection De profundis. From the Pits. The kind of
Melancholy that was beloved of the Romantics, and lauded by Milton, isn't a
fit thing to bring along to the party, these days. So I feel I should
disintegrate the words I've just written here into their electronic
particles -- delete them -- and let them fall back into the undifferentiated
matter from which I drew them.
These are first thoughts the morning after, wrung out of a
sleep-deprived mind. By publishing them, I feel I undermine the better
discourse of more balanced temperaments, that, to my relief, will follow.
So I temper the melancholy drift of this complaint with what is for me
a first redeeming thought, that where Bush and his crowd prevailed, it was
in most cases by the small margin of 1 or 2%. There is no overwhelming
right-wing consensus on the great issues that can be said to divide the
country. Kerry, that flawed man, missed winning in key states by just that
kind of small margin, of 1 or 2%.
If we've been smashed by Bush's victory, it's mainly because of that
rigged artifact of American politics which makes a complete hegemon of the
man who pulls down as little as one vote above the 50% line.
Four years in the doghouse is too great a price for us, the losers in
our multi-millions, to pay. I,m no pendulumist, who believes that an extreme
swing in politics is bound to produce an extreme counterswing. But we the
losers, submerged in our individual disappointments today, number in the
many tens of millions: a colossal number. We,re not alone and certainly not
I write these words, just now, after returning from our noontime
vigil. I noted there how one woman walked by us, weeping to herself. Another
woman I know, who has stood with us every week for most of the last two
years, since before the war began, wept privately to me as we drew placards
out of a car.
From melancholy to weeping in company to declaring ourselves on the
main street of our town ... we won't be passive or impassive in this defeat.
Jules Rabin lives in Marshfield, Vermont. He can be reached at: