Hi everyone — Erin KLG here. Are you comfortably situated? Your duodenum emptied? I’ve got some exciting news: we’ve added a new writer to this here blog. Please welcome Jill, a gifted comedienne, mother and fabulous hair-haver!
Jill is from the exotic town of Chicago, which means — yes — we’ve expanded our city reach. NEXT IS CANADA, THEN THE WORLD. Jill’s roots in Chicago go back several generations, when she was just a zygote within a zygote within a zygote. And listen, not to make any of you feel bad, but not only is Jill a funny literary lady, she also spent some time in the Peace Corps in South America and is mother to a toddler overlord. So congratulations for putting your pants on correctly this morning. Jill will not only be writing about her adventures in Chi-Town, but she’s gonna venture into sundry territory — eating, mothering, body hair (be still my heart), reality TV, and maybe even the quantum mechanics of sex. I made up that last part, but doesn’t that sound cool? I’ll ask her if she can write that for us. She’s no doubt gonna keep it interesting.
Welcome, dear Jill!
It’s Election Day! Thank goodness it’s finally here for the following reasons:
1) The tension is killing me.
2) These robo-calls are killing me.
3) Everyone everywhere is freaking out and this atmosphere is so caustic and divisive that our national wounds will never be able to heal like this.
I have always been an avid follower of politics. I remembered closely following the 2004 US Senate race in Illinois, when my friend’s U of C professor was running against Jack Ryan, and then when a scandal knocked him out, batshit crazy Alan Keyes. I paid less attention to the Obama guy and more to Keyes, who was busy talking about dinosaurs and man walking the earth together back in 1492 or something. Now THAT was a fun campaign to follow.
Four years later, I followed the 2008 campaign and like many people broken and bruised by W. Bush’s post 9-11 world, was swept up in Obamamania. Hope and Change! And living in Chicago, I was at the epicenter of it all. I went to the election night victory rally in Grant Park on November 4th along with thousands of others. My Mom was sad that Celine Dion cancelled her concert in Chicago that night, but understood it was probably for the best. I remember the warnings of potential havoc and the hundreds of police dressed in riot gear. But there was nothing but happiness and, as corny as it sounds, peace. Pure joy. Everyone was hugging everyone, black, white, Northsiders, Southsiders, young and old. Even the police officers in riot gear were smiling. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It was a moment in time; it was something you read about in history books, and I took a mental photo that will last the rest of my life. We wanted to harness that feeling and infect the nation with it, move mountains, heal the world.
But of course, feelings don’t last.
During this time, I moved to downstate Illinois for two years. The culture was starkly different from Chicago. I learned just how much people there feel alienated and marginalized. Most of the rest of Illinois hates Chicago. So much so that they root for St. Louis sports teams over Chicago sports teams, feeling more akin to Missouri. Many wished that Chicago would “secede” and become its own state. Now it’s easy to say in our smug Chicago fashion, “Oh those John Deere-riding, Republican hicks down there, with their Southern accents clinging to their guns and religion. They don’t know what they’re talking about.” But I learned a lot from my time downstate. They have some very legitimate points. If people feel marginalized enough, they’re going to react. This is how movements like the Tea Party are born. And by brushing “Them” off as something “Other” than “Us” only adds to this great divide which we find ourselves in today as a country.
The past four years have been rough. The economy is slow to recover and the two-party system has radically factioned into Tea Partiers and Occupy Movements, right-wing religious nuts and extreme left liberal douches. The middle ground is disappearing, you’re either on Team Red or Team Blue. And if you are on one, you vehemently hate the other. Unfortunately, despite what Obama said in his 2004 keynote speech, there IS a liberal America and a conservative America, NOT a United States of America.
One day I woke up and I couldn’t listen to NPR like usual. I listened to The Eric and Kathy Show instead. I went home and couldn’t turn on the news. I watched The Real Housewives of New Jersey instead. I couldn’t read a magazine or any of the blogs I regularly followed. I couldn’t even watch The Daily Show or Colbert. Something froze up in me. There was too much game-playing, too much spin, too much political cock-blocking, too much venom, too many jokes. Politics now come before Solutions. Politics as Sport. Politics as Entertainment. THIS IS OUR COUNTRY WE ARE TALKING ABOUT. THIS IS ABOUT PEOPLE’S LIVES. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I turned it all off.
For about a year I was shut off. I’ve slowly started to turn on the radio again. I have always tuned in to it all, CNN and Fox News and NPR and all the rest. To watch the debates and even join in on the Facebook live commenting fun. I am still upset by it all. But I’ve realized something else.
It’s all going to be ok.
The explosion of Us vs. Them sentiments that permeates our nation, pouring out on TV and in our Facebook, dividing friends and family, has made me worry about our future. But then I think of how left–leaners thought the world would end if Bush was re-elected, and it didn’t. And now right-leaner are feeling the same if Obama is re-elected, while left-leaners are panicking of the outcome if he isn’t. Just like people worried if FDR could “fix” the economy and lead them out of The Depression. And then the war. Remember the great financial panic of 1819? Me neither, but we survived it. By no means am I downplaying the suffering that is going on today, or the unique set of issues we face as a nation. These are difficult times. But they are times, which is what history is made of. A collection of ups and downs that attempt to bring us together and tear us asunder. Whatever the outcome tonight, as we all stay up late to watch, we’ll survive. Whatever the ebb and flow of the political or social tide, we will all be ok. Everything is going to be alright. It will.
That being said, come on, Obama, and beat the ever-loving snot out of that smug, out-of-touch, robotic motherfucker.