Sorry, but there’s still nothing more important than this election.
On election night, I stayed up until a little past 1 a.m., then decided I couldn’t take any more and hit the sack. My wife stayed up a little longer, then tried to get some sleep. She woke up again around 3 a.m., which was just in time to hear that Gore was about to concede. She got so depressed she started rearranging the furniture in her office. I’m not talking chairs and vases, folks. I’m talking gargantuan furniture that would make professional movers ask for more money before they agreed to take the job.
Not quite an hour later, after seeing Bush’s margin of victory shrink like a squeezed accordion, Gore decided to slug it out. Three hours later, I woke up. When my wife told me the news, I wondered if I was still dreaming.
Later that day, when I was out walking the dog, I ran into the guy who works security for a parking lot near where I live. We always wave and speak to each other, but rarely exchange more than a few words.
“So what you think about those elections, man?” he asked.
From that point forward it was on. Chelsea’s walk had to be put on hold for at least 20 minutes. All she could do was walk around in frustrated circles, glancing up at me impatiently, wondering when all this meaningless conversation would cease so she could commence sniffing out big game.
But that had to wait. The security guard was in a rage about what was happening. Already assuming — correctly — whom I’d voted for, he began to spell out all the reasons why he was convinced that Bush’s people were trying to steal the election and were using every available means to corrupt the voting process in Florida. After all, wasn’t George’s younger brother Jeb the governor of that state? So didn’t it make sense that he was going to pull out all stops to make sure Big Brother George W. came away with a win? But if George W. did win, the guard said, then there were going to be serious repercussions all across the country.
Just as an example, “All those guns they’re afraid to take away from these kids are gonna wind up killing them,” he said, suggesting that policies likely to be implemented — or not implemented — by a Bush presidency would most likely result in serious wildness that could spill beyond the streets and into those areas where such things “just don’t happen.”
I didn’t agree completely with his analysis of what was going on in Florida, although I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t suspicious. Still, as a rule I try to avoid subscribing to anything resembling a conspiracy theory unless I can see a truckload of evidence.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed the conversation immensely. After more than a year of waving, nodding and acknowledging each other with the standard “What’s up?” “How you doin’?” and “You all right?” we were suddenly discussing politics, the presidential election, and the fate of the nation.
The next night, Thursday, band rehearsal got called off at the last minute. The drummer’s uncle, an older guy with gray hair who uses a cane to get around and catches the bus every week down to our rehearsal space to let us in, needed a ride home.
First thing he wants to know?
“Man, what you think about these elections? Ain’t this a bitch?”
I’d had a number of conversations with the man before, but never about politics. Tonight, that’s all he wanted to talk about the entire drive home. I’d tell you some of what he said, but most of it can’t be reprinted. No, not even in an alternative newsweekly like this one. I’ll just say that he doesn’t like Bush much and thinks something stinks about the way the elections have been conducted in Florida.
There have been a number of other similar and lengthy discussions I’ve engaged in since the election, and they’ve all made me feel pretty good. I figure if this is what it took to get people to finally understand that just one vote can make all the difference, and that this country isn’t as much under the thumb of the rich and powerful corporations as we — or they — might think, then this has all been for the good. Who would have ever thought that the two men vying for the leadership of the most powerful nation on earth would be forced to scrap and fight over a few hundred votes in a nation where more than 100 million people voted? When it all came down to the wire, neither Bush nor Gore was begging the corporations for validation. They were begging folks like you and me.
One more thing, and this is for everyone who thinks Gore should be a good little patriot and accept defeat. Listen, any patriot who isn’t willing to fight like hell for what he thinks is best for the country doesn’t know the meaning of the word and is too short on vision to measure up.
Having said that, let’s break this thing down to the high-profile, glitzy street fight that it is. Instead of this being Gore vs. Bush, let’s imagine it’s Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman in Zaire. You were for Foreman. How would you have felt if Foreman tossed the fight 30 seconds before the end of the final round because he was behind on points? If you had any money riding on it, you probably would have beat him up yourself.
The fight’s not over until the bell rings — or until the last vote is counted. That’s the way it works in the ring, and that’s the way it’s supposed to work in a democracy. One person, one vote. One punch, you’re out — but not until the final count.
And not if you’re the one who threw that punch.Keith A. Owens is a Detroit-area freelance writer and musician. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.