Your Obama Sticker Won’t Get You Into Heaven

Something I’ve hadbookmarked for a while that Jacob wrote back during the primaries. Go read and then come back.

Because what that looks like to me is a lot of the same thing, no matter if the word is “war” or “gay” or “abortion”: the second you let those words take over your brain, you’re letting them win. And if you read this blog at all, you know “they” are nobody you want to mess with, because they don’t really exist, because they’re just us, from the other side. Which is why I’m looking forward to the rise of the next Rush Limbaugh. Which is why, dear reader, forgive me — I voted for Bush.


Why? To make it worse. To get us to the point that our 2008 president will be Hillary or Obama. To help wake us up. To bring on the jackboots and the black masks and the closed-circuit televisions; so that FOX News’s particular brand of IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH would spread to every station. To get V For Vendetta made. To scare everybody under the age of thirty.

I’ve been kicking this around in my head for a while, for a few days now, as this nagging sense of depression and adrenaline hangover takes over and my Denver buzz finally wears off. I’ve been trying to figure out what happens next, because this already feels like Wednesday of next week over here, is how tired I am and how tired I know all of you are.

And all I’ve come up with is that it isn’t enough.

It isn’t enough, that we’re gonna get it done this time. It isn’t enough to elect Barack Obama president of the United States. (Howfucking crazy is it, to say that, that we are that fucked, that electing a black dude with a Muslim name to the highest office in the land on a platform of hope and change is not gonna be momentous enough to magically fix the world? I mean it, tell me, how fucked are we that this is the case?) It isn’t enough to say the pendulum’s swung back again, and it isn’t enough to say we get itnow. Now does then no good at all.

It isn’t enough. I want it to be. I’m tired, you’re tired, everybody’s tired. The country’s tired. The world is tired of us tying ourselves up in knots and demanding they pay attention to our little psychodramas; France and Germany are like, “We havestuff going on here if you don’t mind giving us a sec, dude.” Everybody’s tired and I for one want casting that ballot Tuesday to be enough. So that I can say okay, done, did my job, put my work in, wore outtwo keyboards now on this laptop and the straps on two carry-on bags and the soles of four pairs of shitty Target ballerina flats, now I get to go and lay down and wait for things to get better. Now we slap a fresh coat of paint on this broken-ass country and we get to start over, right? Right?

Now I get to stop worrying about the innocent people we’ve locked up in Guantanamo, and the guilty who still have no rights?

Now I get to stop thinking about the people who died in their attics, on their rooftops, in the floodwaters when the hurricanes roared through, whose former homes are still scarred, still broken, and still in such danger?

Now I get to stop seeing on the TV every night (not on the news, not ever on the news of course, but in commercials) people who are actually dying because they can’t afford medicine, losing their homes because they can’t afford doctors?

Now I get to stop thinking that if I ever do manage to get pregnant, my child has zero chance of going to college because I have zero chance of affording it for him or her, if tuition keeps rising?

Now I get to stop remembering the photograph I saw, of a woman lying prone on her soldier husband’s grave, because he went to war and didn’t come home?



I keep thinking that on Tuesday it’ll be enough, to vote for hope instead of fear, for truth instead of lies, for help instead of hurt. I keep thinking what a wonderful thing it will be, all these people, from the 109-year-old daughter of a slave to the 18-year-old first-time voter, coming together to say what they want with their bodies and their voices and their votes.

But it isn’t enough. It can’t be enough. We can’t give ourselves a pass starting on Nov. 5 the way I think we might have four years ago. I keep thinking about that campaign, about four years ago at this time, how sure I was that we were gonna turn back the tide, how that was going to be the break that would make it okay, a statement, loud and clear: YOU DO NOT DO THIS IN OUR NAME YOU BASTARDS NOT IN OUR NAME NOT IN MY NAME NO. And everything that’s happened since has been informed by the conviction that we as a country had a chance to stop it and we didn’t. It isn’t enough that on Tuesday we’ll stop it from getting worse.

Every coffin come home on a plane in four years was one that didn’t have to pass this way, every bill you opened from the hospital that only sort-of fixed you was one that didn’t have to be this high. Everyone shot, everyone starved, everyone lost, everyone scared, it isn’t enough that it’s almost over becauseit’s not almost over. It’ll never be over. And over doesn’t mean it never happened in the first place.

The dead are not less dead yesterday so we can have a better president today. The imprisoned are not set free upon Inauguration Day. You do not do a good thing and get to put down your weight. One good deed doesn’t clear you; two wrongs don’t make a right but a right doesn’t cancel out a wrong, either. Absolution isn’t cereal, it’s not something you can buy, no matter how much you stack up on the checkout counter. I don’t believe in retroactively assigning the purpose of the Bush years’ suffering as getting us to Obama, because it feels cheap, like we’re letting ourselves off the hook. The dead are still dead. The fires are still burning. The prison doors remain shut. And we are not absolved.

I’m not trying to be a downer here or call anybody fired up about Obama (hell, the minute I get some sleep I’ll be fired up about Obama again my own self) a chump or a sucker. It will be wonderful that given the chance, we didn’t continue the bullshit artistry we’ve been practicing on ourselves the past eight years. It will be wonderful to say, now we get it. It just won’t make it any less horrible that there was a time when we ever, everdidn’t get it. To paraphrase some dead Christian bastard whose books I read when I can’t sleep which lately is all the time, the pain then has to be part of the happiness now. Otherwise it’s an excuse, and there is no excuse for the past four years. None. Not even in the hindsight of an Obama victory. Not even then. It isn’t enough.

Jacob goes on in the piece I quoted above:

If I could go back, I wouldn’t do it. Understand that I was voting in Houston, TX — no matter who it was I voted for, I was voting for Nader — so there wasn’t a measurable civic result. And my aims were accomplished. But if I could go back, I wouldn’t do it, and the reason for that is that there are enough bad guys in the world already, put there by cruel circumstance and scarred history and greed, and posing as one of them, just to get the best out of everybody else, isn’t worth the cost. I would tell myself to shout, and beat against the wall, and scream in the face of anything bigger than myself. I would explain over and over again to myself that people don’t need your intentions or your love, they need your strength, and your bravery, and that no matter how little difference it made, the price you pay for giving in takes more of a toll on you than anybody will ever see.

So what’s the answer, if this isn’t? I’ve spent the past week in a state of advanced exhaustion, the kind where you stop in the middle of a sentence because you can’t remember what you were about to say or who you were about to say it to and that’s AFTER three cups of hot chocolate made with espresso instead of milk. I am dragging, every day, from the back door out and home again, with the effort of keeping my pessimistic shield of We’re Gonna Blow This Somehow raised against the world. I’m an obsessive planner; I believe saying things like, “It’ll happen” is what you do when you’re too fucking lazy to make an outline, so I’ve been planning. What to do if McCain wins this. A lot of open threads, maybe a stockpile of money and warm socks in a box in a safe place somewhere. I’ve been building a mental bunker, and it’s been wearing me out. The year is dying. There are yard signs all over, in piles of leaves, and a sign in my window I look at every morning.

The fight to keep up against the rising tide of hope is too much. The fight to stay afraid is too much. Saying it isn’t enough is too much. That Obama sticker won’t get me into heaven but neither will it send me to hell so on balance, I’m putting it on and kicking through a pile of leaves on my way to the polling place. I don’t have any other choice. The point isn’t that voting for Obama isn’t the answer, it’s that it isn’t the whole one. We won’t be done, after Tuesday. We won’t get to kick back. We cannot undo what has been done in our name. But if it isn’t enough to hope, it isn’t enough to despair, either; what we can do is what’s in front of us.

If I went back to my first presidential election, in 2000, at twenty-two, I’d tell him I was right: Bush would make things worse. So much worse than that little guy could ever imagine. And 9/11, and the war, would change us all so much, and change the shape and character of our country so much, that it would appear as a singularity. That after the war, in this new time, when all the words we speak are words of hope, that I would be unrecognizable to him, that the world, that the country he loved, would be entirely different places, tired, wiped out and scarred by fear and violence and anger. And I would tell him to be brave, and to be bold. I would tell him about the French Revolution, and Charlie Wilson, and all the angry, beautiful art and men and women that the war and this darkness would make, of all of us.

And then I would hold him as fiercely as I could, and tell him it always, inevitably swings back the other way: that it’s always already changing. That the best we can hope for is to be strong, and to be present and aware, and keep the balls going in the air as long as it takes, to learn what we can from the downtimes and remember them for the uptimes, or risk destruction on either side. I’d tell him about war: how it’s always awful, but like most awful things, you’re better off adjusting to it than denying that it exists, or that it will always exist.

“It takes an ass to fill every seat,” I’d say, because that’s what I always say: “Just make sure what side of the aisle you want to be photographed on.” I would tell him that we are all on the anvil, and that every second that passes marks us, and that — Hillary and Obama and Gore willing, the electoral college willing — eventually we’d find our way back to peace, and find ourselves in an America where the only word we can agree on right now, is change.

It isn’t enough, but it isn’t nothing, either. We won’t be done on Tuesday; maybe the point is that we’ll never be done. You do one hard thing and you fail, that’s kind of easier than winning, because failure means you get to go home and lick your wounds a while. Success means you have to keep going. It means you have to keep moving, you have to keep fighting, you have to keep pushing because in this job we’ve assigned ourselves there’s no final deadline. There’s no final anything. The dead are still dead, and maybe the only way they absolve us is if we do not seek their forgiveness. If we don’t pretend we’ve made it okay. If we just recognize that “okay” doesn’t mean what it used to, doesn’t mean what we think it means.

It’s isn’t enough.

Maybe we hear that as encouragement, instead of rebuke. Maybe we hear that, as the country has begun to hear it, as hope instead of hatred. I say all the time in my meatspace life that you do not lose people because you ask too much of them, you lose them because you ask too little, you put a task in front of them that they do not consider worthy of their great strength. The task shifts; the closer you get to the mountaintop the louder the wind howls.

You pull me up, I’ll pull you.


15 thoughts on “Your Obama Sticker Won’t Get You Into Heaven

  1. I’ve been sorta thinking in this same vein. Only in my head, the question is, what will I do when I no longer feel like I have to do everything possible to stave off the horrible, stinking hell that would be a McCain presidency?
    Your wind metaphor really clicked for me. The last eight years have felt like walking into an increasingly intense wind, so you’re constantly leaning forward, your face turned away from the sting. Does the wind go away with an Obama presidency? I don’t think so. It may be eased up, it may not. It may come from a different direction, suddenly throwing us off-balance. But there will still be wind.
    But I will claim this much: on Wednesday, Goddess willing, if we actually do win this thing, I’m going to get so tired from dancing a Snoopy happydance, so fucking hammered on joy that I won’t recover till the weekend.
    Three days. That’s all I ask. Then I’ll grab your hand, A. And we’ll all make sure that things move in the right direction for a long, long time.

  2. Hey, Bug, we granted people three days of depression when Kerry lost, I think three days of snoopy happydancing are in order.

  3. A…
    November 4th is not the beginning of the end. It is merely the End of the Beginning.
    We Americans have a lot of work to do to put ourselves back on the track we should be on. And doing that is, as you point out, going to take ALL OF US.
    With President Obama, I’m ready to put my head down and re-enter the fight.
    And I think based on what I’ve seen in Obama’s campaign, a campaign that is one of the citizens, the fire’s been lit and “old thinking” politicians (Pelosi) are going to feel the heat if they continue to be part of the problem and not part of the solution.
    Here’s to the next chapter! ::beer!

  4. After the last eight years, I’m ready for anyone along a more reasonable moral/political path to enter the White House. When people say they fear the messianization of Obama because he may not deliver all that is expected of him, I say that it’s not him they deify as much as they are actively repelled by the alternative, which is a LOT more of the vommit-inducing same. Don’t worry, we’re going to have plenty to bitch about over the next four years. Following eight years of seeming uselesness, we have something to do: we are the ones who have to keep Obama and his administration honest and productive.
    I’ll admit that I’m not a hardcore Democrat. In fact, I used to be a Libertarian who voted both Democrat and Republican until the Republican party was overtaken by drooling morons who eschew reason and worship fear and were used by extremely rich and powerful people to screw over the American Dream, leaving immigrants and naturalized citizens like me to feel unAmerican in a nation we love, understand and helped build. If the worst that can happen after a tepid Obama presidency is that a better breed of Republican candidate steps up to the plate, so be it. I will not be patronized and toyed with by the likes of the McCain-Palin bus wreck. If today’s America was what the Rove machine wanted, they got it, the greedy bastards. We’re Americans, we can make better garbage than that.
    Once our legs are sore from the happydancing after Obama is elected president, we have to be on the war path once again. We’re Americans, not necessarily Obama-ites.

  5. At the coast here in the Pac NW, we have all these evergreen trees that have branches and needles only on the leeward side, and I always thought it was because the wind and the salt spray killed or broke everything that faced the Pacific and the powerful storms we get 4-5 months of every year.
    It turns out that the trees are smart enough to grow only on the side that’s protected.
    Here on the left we’ve been a bit like those trees the last eight years, clinging to one another, facing each other, working for change, yes, but not having the chance to really engage the plurality that’s supported Bush; the wind and the toxic spray coming from that direction might as well have been an infinite, alabaster wall.
    Now the wind is shifting, and we’re about to get a chance to grow into our best, whole selves as a country. But it’s only a chance. I’m exhausted, too – I’ve started listening to music in the car again instead of my ubiquitous progressive station because I’m saturated. I can’t take any more talk.
    I’m exhausted because there has been so little opportunity for action. My blood has pooled in my feet and my ass and I need to get moving again.
    So, if all goes well on November 4th, revel in it: soothe your weary bones in a warm bath of hope, work your muscles around, and then get out, get dressed and get ready to work.

  6. Exhaustion is the word, for sure. But, I am very much aware that this is only a preliminary battle in the real war. The real war will be to force the new Congress to move along the progressive/liberal path we want them to. Unfortunately, as much as I like Obama, he is not a committed liberal. He is more of a centrist than anything.
    Congress will remain largely the same Democratic group that has not exactly covered themselves with glory for the past 2 years. They will remain largely captive to the big corporations that can make their declining years so comfortable. Remember the high hopes we had for universal health care when Clinton was elected with that as his primary objective? It was mostly the corporate whores in Congress who shot that idea down.
    We need to start on about November 10th pressuring our Congress people and Senators to turn their backs on the corporate pied pipers who lead them today, and listen to us and act on what we want. If we don’t do that we face another Clintonian presidency, but with more sophistication. That wouldn’t be much fun.

  7. There’s a very deep hole that’s been dug to bury America over the past decades, and the past eight years have burrowed down incredibly fast. I’m hoping that Obama can figure the path up and out — I know that McCain will only dig faster yet — but even Obama’s surrounded himself with a lot of the people who helped dig this hole in the first place.

  8. Thank you for this post A.
    I’m older than you and I recognize some of the feelings you are going through. I remember this as burn out. Political burn out. I had work burn out. 12-15 hour days 6 days a week for years and when I wasn’t at work I was thinking about work.
    Taking a vacation took an intense amount of prep work and then it took 4 days to reach a point of relaxation. I was in Aspen and I called in to work after 2 days on Vacation and I heard the tension in the voices of my co-workers I realized that was what I sounded like ALL THE TIME. I did this for years. It gave me PTSD. Not the same as the Vets, but the constant stress hormones combined with the same mental pathways being used, lead to some serious burn out.
    We will win. And I want us to rejoice. I don’t want to think about phrases like, “Now the hard work begins.” Not because it might not be true, but because it doesn’t honor the work we HAVE DONE. We need a mental vacation.
    I appreciate bothmissy and pansypoo’s comments. I have been looking for Music now too. I want to go back to work. I’ve mentally spent years working on how to push back effectively on the right wing noise machine. After Nov. 4 they will not give up. The right wing media will go into instant victim status. The main stream media will expect to have the same position they had during Clinton. They like to do it, it’s fun to beat on the Democratic President, he doesn’t call names or kick you off the plane for questioning him.
    I remember thinking. Why didn’t the Right Wing media quit after they owned the White House and the Congress. Why didn’t Rush simply quit? Nobody asked that question. Of course after they win they will say, “We are needed even MORE!”
    They didn’t quit because they still wanted to meet their longer term goals. We have a lot of goals to work for now. We have lots of justice to bring. We can work on the DeBushification of the government. There will be a lot of “Let’s forget the past” stuff and we will need to be there and say. “No. Let’s look at what really happened and find out the people who did the bad things so it won’t happen again.” (Of course this sounds like a job for “The Spocko Squad!”. A Quinn Martin production- In Color)
    What I wish we had was the ability to make our work PROFITABLE. If I won the Lottery that would be what I did with it, make it possible for us to “have work now” it’s disgusting that we have to do the work of our justice department. It pathetic that we have to do the work of the media.
    But as A. is saying with our post, we don’t have to stop. Mentally we can and will and should take a break. And when we come back we should also have some fun. 2008 has been one of the worst years of my life. Ending with an Obama win will help balance it out.

  9. I’m a little surprised that I’m in such a “cheerleader” mode this week, but that’s where I’ve been. The relief I feel about even what’s already happened thus far just wants an expression and I’m tired of trying to push down that optimism. So, I’m in a different place but that doesn’t mean I think you’re wrong. I could just as easily be over there too. I’ve been there before, and I might be there tomorrow.
    Re Jacob, you know that I too think that heaven opened up and the god of writing kissed him on the forehead and told him he was chosen, he’s really just that gifted a writer. That said, I’ve read and re=read that post of his and to me it comes off as too callow and pat, sorry, but it’s the writing of a very young white man. He’s a great writer, but I think he’s still got a lot of living to do. And that’s not his fault, I’d rather see someone put themselves out there and be flawed than not put themselves out there at all.
    Re America and “not in my name,” I know you probably know this too but sweetie, America’s been doing grievous crimes against nature in your name and mine long before we were even born. Even if we only start counting after serious colonialization, how many hundreds of thousands of Indians, of men, women, and children, died at the hands of our forefathers? What about slavery? What about the Japanese internment camps? What about Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Don’t forget the hundreds of American bombers that flew above Dresden, including those that flew low over the river, close enough to see the faces of th old people, men, women and children trying to run away from the firestorm. Korea. Viet Nam. And of course, Americans killing Americans in America. Lynchings, rapes. Bayview, Haymarket and other union massacres, Kent State, Jackson State. These things are every bit part and parcel of America, done by Americans for America’s “progress.” We are here now because people back then stole this country and then started the killing and the brutality and the greed, none of which has ever stopped. We are also here because of a lot of glorious and amazing things, some of them accomplished by the same people. That’s what this country is. That’s what humans are. That’s what the world is. Glory and beauty and blood and shit, grace and savagery.
    I’m not saying that this makes it all meaningless or that we should just give up on bringing the thugs to justices. Far from it. Not any more than we should not feel the wonder at what the Obama campaign has managed to accomplish already so far.
    I am saying, like you said, it won’t ever be done.

  10. God, what a chucklehead that dude is. He’s really obviously still in his 20s, and younger than that mentally, and insulated by his privilege (white, male, able-bodied, American, class…). You have to be pretty insulated by your privilege to have that kind of “Aw, what the fuck, let it all burn down, so what, maybe the sheeple will wake up if someone shocks them enough” attitude.
    People who’ve really genuinely beenin the shit don’t say things like that. Catch me, here: I’ve been so broke I was stealing toilet paper from the cushy offices of firms where I was going on job interviews, because rent required cash, food could be scrounged, but TP had to be lifted. I’ve been homeless. I lost almost everything I owned not once buttwice (and when you’re dead broke, that’s not just an inconvenience and a tragedy, it’s a catastrophe). I’ve been on Welfare three times. And you know what, I and people like me don’t say “Let it all burn down,” we say, save what’s left. IfI lose everything, again, I’ll survive. Other people, I’m not so sure. And panicked people who feel they have nothing left to lose are a direct threat to me and my society.
    To fatuously sit there and compare theactual, real pain and suffering of millions of people around the world tomovies is…stupefying. Bewildering. The height of arrogance, privilege, and idiocy. As intellectually honest and rigourous as the worst of the Freeper True Believers. The act of a juvenile asshole who doesn’t realise that his fluffy white cocoon of privilege doesn’t protect everyone from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, whichdon’t just exist in cinematic Shakespeare…

  11. Addendum: I’ve got zero patience with the guy — people who’ve actually had to wash their friends’ blood out of their hair don’t get wistful about what a wonderful political opportunity The Terror was. Tool.
    If that’s a representative sample of his writing, he also isn’t all that and a bag of chips, just another glib schmuck with an occasional turn of phrase. By the time they were his age, the entire generation of writers he’s apparently aping in some half-understood way actually had some life experience to back up their anecdotes.

  12. I, too, have been feeling a bit of that exhaustion, and have taken to sometimes turning off the radio in my car because I can’t listen to any more talk either. However, I have a secret weapon for times like this, and she’s about 2.5 years old: no matter how tired *I* am, nobody gets to mess with my daughter’s future. It’s not about me, it’s about her, and that means no giving up, ever. Plus, I figure if she has so much energy packed into such a small frame, I must just not be digging deep enough. 😉
    That, and the *right* kind of music always helps me to deal with this kind of burnout. So, if it’s not straying from the thread too much…the last few days, I’ve been finding this one by Jamie Lidell in my head (picked up from FDL or C&L, don’t remember which):
    Little Bit of Feel Good (odd video, but the music is good)
    And a longtime favourite is Dire Straits’ “Telegraph Road.” It’s 13 minutes and change, but I always found that no matter what mood I was in, somewhere in those 13 minutes the song would sync up with my mood, and then the music would drag me up with it so I’d end up not tired, not apathetic, but itching for the bell to ring so I could grab the kitchen chair, go in for another round and knock the suckers *OUT*:
    Telegraph Road (part 1)
    Telegraph Road (part 2)
    Doesn’t hurt that the lyrics sound like history put to music, either.

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