On Tuesday, Nov. 6, at 11:12 p.m. (8:12 p.m. our time, which is the only time that matters), NBC called Ohio, and the election, for Barack Obama. Fox News surprised everyone and horrified Karl Rove, by following their example within minutes. The country breathed a sigh of relief at the early call; maybe some people weren’t pleased with the outcome, but at least we wouldn’t be held hostage for long, uncertain weeks. Americans could resume life as usual—jobs, families, stuffing turkeys. And I could get back to my I Dream of Jeannie marathon.
So you can imagine my frustration when, smack in the middle of “What’s New, Poodle Dog?” I received a phone call that made it impossible for me to focus on Jeannie’s dilemma. I figured that, days and weeks after the election, they’d still be counting votes in Ohio, and possibly Florida, consulting their armies of high-priced attorneys and swapping accusations of election stealing. I didn’t figure one-third of the country would be threatening to secede because the black man indisputably won. Bear in mind, I used the term “black man,” but most of the people I’m talking about are using a much uglier term, a term we like to pretend is dead and buried in an embarrassing racist past that’s somehow distinct and separate from our national identity today. But if Twitter has taught me anything, it’s that an embarrassing and very vocal segment of the country is still very comfortable using that word, and using that word publicly.
We elected the black man. Yes, we can. Yes, we did. Four years ago. And again, a couple of weeks ago. And rich white men everywhere flipped their toupees and threatened to march on Washington. When Bush was re-elected, it was a mandate from the public, Fox News told us. We had chosen our leader, they told us. God bless him, they said. But when Obama was re-elected, winning both the popular and electoral vote, they couldn’t believe it. It can’t be, they told us. He barely squeaked in, they said. Who’s to blame? they asked us. Because the beatific light shining down from the heavens doesn’t belong to the liberals, the women, the minorities, the gays. The divine right to rule in the land of the free has always been an exclusive privilege of the wealthy white male. And if an office—and especially the one inside the White House—can’t be purchased by a rich white male, well, it’s not the country we thought it was. So, we’ll have to secede.
You know that saying about history repeating itself? A century and a half ago the South couldn’t handle the idea that black people would no longer be their personal property. So they tried to secede from the United States. You know, the country they always go on and on about loving? The greatest country on Earth, blah, blah, blah, Nascar, blah, blah, blah, guns? Now, a black man was once again elected president, and they’re once again muttering about secession. Half of me thinks good riddance. The other half thinks what sorry, racist losers.
Sure, plenty of people whined about George Bush when he was re-elected in 2004. Liberals and intellectuals scratched their heads and wondered how he managed to pull it off. Some of them even joked about fleeing to Canada. But that was nothing compared to the hurricane-grade hissy the nation’s conservatives are throwing right now. Trump wants to march on Washington, a pregnant woman in Arizona ran over her husband because he forgot to vote for Romney, Karl Rove tried to stop Fox News from calling the election for Obama, Bill O’Reilly lamented the fact that “the white establishment is now the minority,” Sean Hannity woke up the next morning and claimed his views on immigration had evolved (a word I thought the conservative right was allergic to), and everyone and their grandma seems to think it’s appropriate to use the inappropriate racial slur on Twitter.
Get it together, America. Saying gross, spiteful things is kinda my shtick, and it’s really hard for me to be a creep while simultaneously recoiling in horror at the blatant racism and spew of hate that’s stickying up our radio and television waves. And social media, of course.
There are a few heroes to emerge from the fray. The people in Florida who stood in line for seven hours in order to cast their vote. Now, it’s true, a vote in Florida means a helluva lot more than a vote in California. We’re true blue, which means no one pays us any attention come election time. Florida is one of those lucky states that doesn’t know its own mind, and therefore receives an inordinate amount of attention from men in suits who kiss babies and make promises they may or may not keep. Tales of sick people voting, women in labor voting, patient people waiting in endlessly long lines to exercise their privilege—that’s my America. It doesn’t have to be an America that agrees about which suited man—for now—should run our country, but it’s an America that takes this decision seriously, and respects the outcome, whether you agree or apply for a passport and spend the next month after the election threatening to move to Canada. It’s not an America that calls our 44th president the N-word, and it’s not an America that decides it no longer wants to be part of America after it doesn’t get its way.
Shredder is wondering which Darren is the real Darren. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.