On Election Day 2016, I was in Myanmar with my husband.
Results came in through the morning, while we woke up and got ready to go. By noon the deal was done. We walked around Bagan zombie-eyed and I stared at the other tourists we passed, wondering if they were Americans. It was lonely carrying that stress around in a country so far from my own. We climbed temples and rode motor bikes, but a filter had been placed over our experience, bleeding strangeness into each shot. I didn’t sleep much. People back home told me I cared too much. If caring can be switched off, it seems dangerous to try.
A few days later we were in Hong Kong. I was in line for a public restroom and the girl next to me leaned in.
“Are you American?” she asked.
“Yes,” I responded.
“I’m so sorry.”
My ideal environment would be a cabin in the woods where I can hang out with otters and sparrows, spend all day making things, then cuddle up beneath a big quilt at night. I’d never go to parties or think about politics and I’d always have enough cheese in the refrigerator.
Instead I live here. In a society with other human beings. So I vote. I vote aggressively and try to hold firm against the pathological tendency of society to scapegoat and demonize those with less power. I’m scared because I don’t know how to live in this version of the world, or who I’m supposed to be here.
Though all of history there have been people who were like: “WTF am I doing here? What is this bullshit? All I wanted was to bake pies, but instead I’m being invaded by the freaking Huns and that seems unfair.”
Or: “I finally figured out the perfect silhouette to complement my body type and now I’m getting beheaded by the King of England. Crikey nuggets!”
We’re all almond flakes in the cheese wheel of history and without proper refrigeration things are going to rot, whether we’re temperamentally suited to it or not.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf as he revved up his chainsaw, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for us to decide. All we have to decide is how best we can kick ass and which ass is most in need of kicking.”
(Someone hire me to adapt LOTR — I have a very nuanced take on the material.)
It’s raining in Seattle as we await our sentencing. The city holds its breath. This post has a very short shelf life. Soon we’ll all have moved onto whatever emotion comes next. In the meantime… we hope. We vote. We wait.