Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My hope returns: A letter to Karl

I've been pretty sick the past couple of days. Caught a stomach bug and have a terrific headache but this morning, despite the pain in my body, my heart is light. My four year old son found me crying as I watched Obama's victory speech on YouTube. With his sweet little voice he asked, "Did Barack Obama win?" I answered him "Yes, what do you think?" "Good!" was his response.

It is indeed good. I wrote a letter this morning to my dear friend, Karl, expressing my feelings of last night and this morning. I do not think he will mind if I share it here. With some minor editing for the sake of privacy, my letter follows:

I told my children this morning that Obama won the election. My daughter squealed, "He did?! He did?!" and she jumped up and ran around in celebration. My eleven year old son said, "I am so proud of that guy!"

Last night I lay on the couch as the results came in, occasionally dozing as the pundits droned on. But I was awake when they called the election and I watched the crowds, thousands of people, screaming, and weeping with joy and relief. I saw Jesse Jackson standing there silently with tears streaming down his face. I cried too. But it wasn't until I went into the bathroom to get some tissue to blow my nose that it hit me hard. I looked in the mirror and saw my face, tear-streaked and pale, my hair all awry and thought, very selfishly, how hard these past eight years have been on me and my family. How we lost so much. How our access to health care was eroded and how our kids suffered for that. I thought of how we had to scrape by on beans and rice at several low points. How we accumulated outrageous debt just to pay for our medical bills, groceries and educations but couldn't find decent jobs to pay those bills. I thought of how we lost our home. Most devastatingly, we lost our hope. The nightmare years of my depression coincided with the nightmare years of Bush's administration. I was furious at the hopelessness of the world my children were inheriting and I felt my impotence keenly. It was all just so insane.

So when I looked in the mirror and saw an older face, a more tired and lined face there, I was thinking that maybe now it is over. Maybe now it is finally over and I can dare to hope again. And I kept thinking, I have my country back. I have my country back!

I think the spectacular and momentous reality that we have just elected a black man as president of the United States must be coupled with the reality that most of the people who voted for him were white. We voted for him not to prove a point that the nation was no longer a nation of racists. We didn't vote for him to show how far we've come since Dr. King spoke of reaching the mountaintop. We voted for him because we are weary of the politics of fear. Because all of us have suffered and we are tired of suffering. I know that Obama is a moderate and that I will likely be disappointed many times with his policies and politics. But that's OK. I just hope all the Democrats elected remember their liberal base and give us a way to live out our passion and calling. Let us finally use our gifts without being ridiculed, belittled, and dismissed. Let us serve in a way denied to us for so long. It has been too long.

So now the hard work begins in earnest.

From the blue state of New York to the blue state of Florida, I send you love.


kate said...

From the newly blue Colorado, I wish you peace and joy on this marvelous, wonderful, hope-filled day. Hope you feel better soon.

Karl said...

My dear friend "Hystery", I don't mind your sharing your letter at all, in fact, I'm quite honored.

I'm afraid we are just two percentage points into being blue here in Florida, but thank you for your loving regards from the blue state of NY. All the Republicans I know who are still in a fairly secure earning position, are firmly, still supportive of that twelve year coke monkey in the White House, and of course voted McCain. They are now afraid of an encroaching "welfare state" which they will have to pay for with tax increases. Now, these same people, many of them longtime friends and relatives, are blaming the last two day significant drop in the market on Obama's getting elected. I hate arguing with them about how we are experiencing the decayed collapse of an economic dynamic started during the Reagan Administration, and was nurtured by GHW Bush - and Clinton too - but under GW Bush, the dynamic has reached an unsustainable, greed driven fever pitch.

I am not an economist, and I'm kind of glad I'm not, since when I first took macroeconomics in my sophomore year, the class was told with certitude that the stock market could never go beyond 3,000, and the professor gave several reasons why... As a former anthropology grad student, though, I have never seen a cultural example of where "trickle down" principles have worked - for long. I have however, seen many, many examples of how, even with industrial cultures, when the people at the top draw too much of a disproportionate share of the wealth, the culture which has exceeded it's carrying capacity must either adapt with a more efficient, cheaper technology, or it must redistribute the wealth more evenly from top to bottom. If it does neither, the culture will fall into dissolution.

I think your darling, precocious children can quite easily grasp the principle that in a land which depends on a goose which lays golden eggs, those who are getting the most eggs should have the greatest responsibility for feeding the goose. If those who get the fewest eggs are expected to do most of the feeding, the goose will evetually starve - especially when the people at the top get over 400 times the gold from the eggs, as those who are expected to feed the goose.

Trickle down theory asserts that if the wealthiest can have more wealth with less tax, they will spend the surplus, and the people below will get to share in the wealth. The trouble, though, is that the people who benefit most from their increased income, spend the money on more homes - often in other countries, yachts, and foreign markets. The surplus does not trickle down at an adequate rate to compensate for the amount which "osmoses up," especially if the upward flow procedes at a much faster rate than what trickles down.

I'm amazed I can talk about this calmly just now. I've usually got quite a few choice epithets and metaphoric references to through around when I talk about how the elites have drained the capacity of the "underclasses" to bear as much burden as they do to sustain the system. Golly, ever since Reagan told the Justice Dept "hands off the corporations," and businesses went unregulated, a dynamic was begun which could never be self sustaining for long. Even when I am at Meeting, I sit in silence and try to still angry resentful thoughts about some of the socially conscious concerns which are referred to when others feel moved to speak. I let myself ponder the socio-cultural economic causes for many of those injustices. Sometimes, rather than walk out fuming, I'll try to channel my angry progressivist resentments into a funny scene, or even a poem or Limerick.

Woe unto Bush capitalism
which feeds off misfortune and schism
individuals' need
can't match corporate greed
we're bent over from Dick Cheneyism

Perhaps Haiku:

A golden shower
trickles down on non elites
Rain of Reagan's reign

Of course, I don't feel it's appropriate to speak out such verse at meeting, and those were two of my cleanest, but perhaps I should...even risking some smilingly passive aggressive eldering over after Meeting coffee. No, I'll probably just say that I'm glad that Obama's brought a sense of hope - something I've not had much of for the last 7 3/4 years.

With affection and respect to you, Hystery, your wonderful family, and other commenters.


Lone Star Ma said...

From a very blue family in the still-red Texas, peace and love and hope. It's going to get better now.

Liz Opp said...

I'll be watching for two things, at the very least:

1. What Obama asks us to do in terms of sacrifice and building up our communities--and who steps up to do it; and

2. How those who sided with Obama care and talk about those who sided with McCain, especially after we're back on our feet...

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up... from the blue state of Minnesota, with a hotly contested Senate race with just over 200 votes separating the candidates

P.S. For what it's worth, I have written an open letter to Barack Obama about an issue that is has pierced me this year. Hystery, thank you for sharing your own letter to Karl.

Hystery said...

Thank you for your responses. I am glad to hear others' expressions of hope and happiness. Boy, did I need that!

But Liz is right. We cannot cease being vigilant. Karl and I (news addicts both) continue to find stories that remind us that much injustice remains and we are only at the beginning of our work.

I have read an article in my local paper describing incidents across the nation of effigies of blacks being hanged, of racial slurs and threats, of school children chanting for the assassination of the elected president. I have also raged and cried about the results of elections that have eroded the long fought for human rights of Lesbian, gay and transexual individuals and families.

But my hope is rekindled just when I thought it had burned itself out. I am horrified how close I came to losing it. It is a thing that needs tending and I intend to be more careful in that responsibility in the future.

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Hi, Hystery.
I hope you'll get see this comment. I read your most recent entry as a "ghost"--that is, since I subscribe to you in a reader, I read it in the interval before you took it down.

Would you like to talk a bit? If so, drop me an email at quakerpagan AT mac DOT com, and let's try to connect.

Holding you and your kids in the Light!