Florence: Election Blues

Tomorrow’s the big day. November 8. Our quadrennial presidential poll and regular election.

I donated again last night to HRC. What could it possibly help at this point? Is my money being used today in a campaign? I don’t know. I hope so. Even if it is buying coffee for some democratic campaign workers somewhere.

Meanwhile, in Tuscany, we are trying to take in stride the three major earthquakes (no damage here, but everyone is rattled), the incessant downpour (though not of biblical proportions, as occurred 50 years ago, I am assured by People Who Know), the tornado in Lazio yesterday (!!), the strangeness of the political protest in Florence on Saturday.

Political protest: strange for an American, perhaps? The protesters failed to secure the proper permit to assemble; they assembled anyway; the police were called out. They marched from Piazza San Marco to Piazza Beccaria, stopping in the middle at Piazza d’Azeglio. It was raining hard; there were megaphones; the crowd was not insubstantial. La Repubblica carried a live news feed. Friends of ours got caught up in the middle of it and said there had been bloodied napkins on Piazza San Marco, that everything had been cleaned up most expediently within half an hour after the protest subsided and moved toward Beccaria. The protest was against PM Renzi’s constitutional referendum, which is happening soon, perhaps this week? Our progressive Italian friends seem to think, “good idea, bad bill, vote no.” The referendum is on Italian government, on its excesses and the ways in which it might be simplified. Perhaps the protest made major news because it was happening in Renzi’s hometown. It did not seem to be occurring around the country.

Watching the newsfeed online from our apartment three floors up made me wish, a tiny bit, that I was in the action. I have a latent protest gene. It’s never been properly exercised. I credit my Finnish heritage and my pro-labor father for these leanings, combined with years in Europe as a student, and years more in the US studying Europe past and present.

Maybe I was in Paris in 1968. Or in Spain, 1933, before the Civil War exploded. Or in the US after WWI, protesting a woman’s right to vote.

It’s not that I think protests necessarily change things. Ideally, they should. The Dakota Pipeline especially comes to mind, unfolding now in a suffocating media silence for weeks.

Protests are key because they give citizens the right to assemble, express, and be heard. On a street with no cars, so the polizia are going to tow all the new Skodas, you’d better believe it.

The more fragmented and detached our societies become, the more an analog protest seems so vital. Don’t hide on a comment thread, or on Facebook. Don’t lurk online. Show up in person and let your community know exactly what you believe.

Watching the run-up to the US election since we left on August 26 has been surreal. I read summaries of those three awful debates. I scan headlines daily with a disbelieving shake. Has it really come to this? Brexit is a fresh memory, and I have been cautioned by my friends in the UK to not rely on polls, and to make no assumptions. Just look at all the Leavers who came out of the woodwork on June 23 to turn back the clock.

Watching the US from here is like a 1960s sci fi movie where the space colonists are in a little ship, watching the Earth fade into blackness, and wondering if they will have an Earth to return to.

I got added to the secret Facebook group. I think it’s because I am a dedicated DNC donor. It has helped me feel like I am not in a minority as a progressive, educated woman. It has given me pride again, amidst the ugliness, that a woman will be the American president in my lifetime. I am concerned that we should all be careful what we wish for, but with a healthy side dose of f that. As Obama has experienced since 2008, nothing brings out the nutjobs like a reality that conflicts with their worldview. When HRC wins this election, I hope she gets a nice four-day vacation somewhere with a beach and an umbrella drink, because the severity of her campaign memories will pale next to her in time in office.

I’ll still be with her. I have been there myself, incrementally, but have accrued some analogous life experience in what she is going through. I can’t believe she actually wants this job, but I am very, very glad she does.

I do have a calm confidence that she’s got this. I’m with her. I felt this way in 2008 and 2012 too. (Interestingly, I also balloted both times from abroad in those elections.) I did NOT have this calm feeling of confidence in 2004. I did in 2000, but it quickly proved to be misplaced, and what a ride that was, one I will still never forget, in the George and Dragon pub in Seattle on that Tuesday evening, watching Florida turn from blue to red to blue to red and all the confused faces of the newscasters as we all started gaining an inkling of the 36-day Supreme Court ride we were in for.

1996 was a gimme. We all knew.

1992 was my first presidential election, and it made me feel so adult to discuss its many variables and aspects with my history professor, Dr. Levy, in his windowed office in Dale Hall Tower. He reassured me that Clinton would win, and I was glad of the knowledgeable farewell confidence as I made my final preparations to study abroad in Spain.

Jason and I voted absentee weeks ago, balloting in Spokane County. We were invited to a watch party or two for tomorrow night, but won’t go. With the time difference, the earliest the polls will be closing or returning any kind of result would be at least 11 pm local time. We might do better to just get up and take it with a hot cup of coffee on Wednesday morning.

Please let the U.S. move calmly in the direction of inclusion, progressiveness, and support. Let our systems become better and stronger. Let health and education and parental leave become rights guaranteed by law, for everyone. Let all people move through their lives in safety, no matter where they are, and especially if they are at risk for being somehow seen as “less than.” Let every citizen’s voice be valued and heard, and let us choose a leader who will usher in sanity and calm. Let those in the fading majority who tremble with insecurity see and understand how their insecurities pale against the actual lack experienced by so many more.

I am honestly worried about the violence that I expect to see from the side that I expect to lose. Come on, America. What is the problem with our culture? Pakistan had a female PM like 30 years ago. The UK had Thatcher. Most of Europe has had a female head of state. What about Liberia? Pretty much all of South America? Get out of your little time capsule and come into the 21st.

Just sitting on this election egg to see what we hatch come Wednesday morning.

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