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The Pre-Election Jitters

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On the Cusp of Change

Tomorrow is an anniversary of sorts for me.  Election Night 2004 was the beginning of my political reawakening. I had always voted.  And that year, I traveled to Wisconsin twice to canvass and get out the vote.  But I never considered myself particularly involved or concerned.  Before Election Night, 2004.  I distinctly remember driving home from Wisconsin on that brisk, fall evening, exhausted but buoyed with optimism.  Pedestrians and people in other cars waved and smiled. It was a heady time.  And so it continued to be, as we sat in Judy and Mick’s family room and watched the coverage on TV.  When we went home around 11pm, we were confident that Kerry had won.  

Underneath the veneer of confidence right now, anxiety is rampant.  We’ve been burned twice; we no longer know what to expect.  Up morphs into down, black into white, with no apparent rhyme or reason.  I have already had the adrenaline shakes more than once and woken up in the middle of the night to stare at the ceiling until dawn.  Incidentally, I find these election jitters much harder to handle than becoming an empty nester.  Shipping off the last kid was a piece of cake, compared to this.

I spent today chilling out. No radio, no TV. Just me and my thoughts, as I prepared myself for tomorrow.  The silence was most welcome. Waiting is agony, but wait we must. For this moment, we are frozen in time. Tomorrow morning, the waiting will be over.  In the morning, we begin the last lap of this long journey and the waiting will finally be over.

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Tomorrow marks the divide between Before and After.  Our lives won’t be the same afterwards, regardless of who is declared the winner.  We will move in one direction or the other. Tony, the guy who cuts my hair, gathered his children and grandchildren around him  and shut out the outside world, after 2004.  He still goes to work every day. But, essentially, he has disengaged.  I understand the impulse.  Boy, do I understand it.

Emma, our neurotic rescue pup, heads under the bed whenever she gets anxious. The list of things that unnerve her is extensive so she spends a lot of time under there. And yet, when she’s out and about, she is delightful, sweet, and good-natured.  She is loving and playful. She puts up with my moodiness and inexplicable preoccupation with the computer – in short, she's the perfect companion, despite her foibles.  

I’m hoping not to succumb to that Hide Under The Bed syndrome.  I’d like to think that, after tomorrow, regardless of the outcome, I will still be writing and posting and publicizing election matters. But, at the moment, After seems a long way away.  Tomorrow is going to be a very long day.

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I belatedly decided to climb out of my computer chair and get more involved in this election. For the first time, I will be an official observer, a poll watcher.  I got trained one evening this week. I will be in my own neighborhood, working precincts near my home.  That way, I can slip home to let Emma out once or twice so she doesn’t explode in the interminable hours between 5am-8pm. I feel very conflicted about working the polls.  On the one hand, the day would be unbearably long if I just went to work and waited and worried. On the other hand, being in the thick of it, will be something else entirely. I won’t be able to just throw up my hands, run off, and hide if things begin to unravel.  I’ll have to behave like a grown-up and get through it, somehow. Also, how can I write all the time about people getting involved and then sit on the sidelines myself?  That would be a cop-out.

I had a nightmare a week or two ago.  Every detail is still clear in my mind. I was some sort of action figure in a movie – jogging, in slow mo down the middle of the street.  With me was an attractive, black woman. We were young, strong, unstoppable, on our way to do whatever it is that action figures do.  It was exhilarating. In the blink of an eye, my companion stumbled, did a sort of somersault, and fell to the ground.  The street split open and swallowed her up.  It was terrifying.  The scene shifted suddenly and the street turned into an iceberg that had split, trapping her under the surface of the water. Worse, there was a metal grate over the small opening in the ice. 

The tremendous confidence I had felt before her tumble was instantly replaced by naked fear. I could taste it. Everyone else had magically disappeared; we were clearly on our own. It was beyond me to  remove that grate.  I had no tools or anyone to help me. And even if I could, I’d never be able to pull her through the small opening.  She was treading water, with her mouth pressed up to the opening, gasping and gulping water, getting weaker by the second.  It was a singularly horrible moment and I was frozen in it.  I  somehow stepped outside the dream and wrenched myself awake. I l found myself in my own bed, trembling.  What started out as a lovely dream had turned ugly and unnerving.  

My initial confidence faded as I found myself in trouble, big trouble.  I was in over my head. It doesn’t take a genius or a psychologist to figure out what it all means. The good news is that by making myself wake up, I stopped that dream in its tracks, taking away its power over me.  I pray for the strength to deal with whatever happens in the coming days.  Otherwise, I hope there’s enough room under my bed for two and that Emma's willing to share.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)
 

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