Early and often

June 2nd, 2008

More of my excerpt from the new anthology, The Maternal is Political. Go back here to read the first installment.

I was not, I thought, unduly anxious about my daughter’s educational prospects. I was not among those employing literacy tutors for my three-year-old. I did not use an Excel spreadsheet to track the application process to private kindergartens. I did not angle playdates with the grandchildren of private-school directors. I did not donate a wad of money to the schools at the top of my wish list. I did not even make a list. I simply believed that one day, when the luminous sheen of my daughter’s wonderfulness was made known, something fantastic would happen.

“Who’s John Kerry?” she asked one day, seemingly out of the blue. It was not out of the blue, but rather right out of the red, white, and blue bumper sticker on the SUV in the preschool parking lot. She pointed to it and revealed that, while I wasn’t looking, she had begun to read. It seemed early, the reading, and early too, the electioneering, although I happily took both signs as foretelling a fabulous outcome.

I had been crushed by the presidential election of 2000. Heartbroken, enraged, and then quietly, insistently, optimistic again. Four years was unimaginable, but four more was entirely impossible. Not with truth on our side. Not with smart money. Not with the Internet. And so I found myself doing what I’d never done before, not in my more than twenty years of informed and, sometimes, impassioned voting. I took the phone calls. I made the phone calls. I sent tens of dollars. I sent hundreds of dollars. I walked the precinct. I wore the button. I slapped on the bumper sticker, then saw the stickers everywhere, and not just in the parking lot of our high-priced, progressive preschool. Democratic values were alive and never wealthier, it seemed. The republic would be saved.

We took our daughter to the polls on election day of 2004. And what seemed to matter most going in—truthfulness, courage, effort, and ideals—mattered nothing in the end. One measly vote in one dinky town in one irrelevant state didn’t count for much. The republic was not only broken, it was no longer ours to fix.

“Have we ever voted for someone who won?” My daughter’s response reflected her brief life history of losing, 0 for 2, in presidential contests, but the dejection was universal. We had come to the irretrievable end of hope. And the loss, we realized, was truly hers.

To continue reading. To continue listening. To be continued.


  1. Politics this millenium have been very good teachers that hope only crushes a person, and that the sooner hope is left behind for mere action, the more action one can tolerate.

    As an inter-faith Zenner, I occasionally find myself remembering my college chaplain’s statement that God is the God of history; our job isn’t to win but merely to take action.

    Despite all that, I hope Georgia goes 1-2 this fall.

    PS There is reason to think that as a group humanity is continuing a trend of treating one another better. And perhaps a similar trend for treating our living space better is starting.

    Comment by Chris Austin-Lane — June 2, 2008 @ 2:42 pm

  2. I love you. Funny you post this today of all days — the day I spent at our state capitol pretending to know what I’m doing. Full of hope and wide-eyed amazement at the behind-the-scenes. So glad to know this about you. Debating on ordering this book … do you think I would like it?

    Comment by Shawn — June 2, 2008 @ 6:19 pm

  3. ha ha! Hopefully we’ll vote on someone who will win this time!!!!!

    Comment by Shelli — June 2, 2008 @ 8:16 pm

  4. I hope she will help you vote for the winner this year!

    In early November 2004, I had a magical day – I was just over 3 months pregnant, and my 24-hour nausea subsided suddenly and completely. I stood in Ohio lines for about 2 hours to vote, and I was definitely luckier than most in my precinct. I watched the news show people standing in line for hours and hours into twilight around my state for their chance to cast that ballot, and that alone felt like a loss, hours before the larger one.

    My nausea returned. I spent three days in bed, murmuring apologies to my belly.

    I started going to my first dharma talks that month and I was amazed how many other people did too – to ask “what do I do with all of this anger?”

    Comment by TZT — June 2, 2008 @ 9:57 pm

  5. You’re breaking my heart again.

    Comment by marta — June 3, 2008 @ 2:06 am

  6. sweet Georgia, just considering yourself lucky that you weren’t living in Florida during that awful, awful time. It still makes me nauseous to think about. sigh.

    Comment by nyjlm — June 3, 2008 @ 2:45 am

  7. Yes, that is a good YouTube piece. It reminds me that many people know, many people want change, and many people are focusing their energy to make things different. Here’s hoping when you put it all together it will make it right.

    Comment by denise — June 3, 2008 @ 1:57 pm

  8. this took me back to four years ago, when I took a very baby Leo with me to vote.
    I wanted so much, hoped so much.
    We were very heartbroken.
    I wrote him, Leo, a letter after the election.
    If I do say so myself, it is one of the finest things I have every written.

    Comment by bella — June 3, 2008 @ 4:30 pm

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