On the poetics of politics

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The first time I voiced a political opinion, I was sitting in the passenger seat of the family sedan. My dad had just picked me up from day care on his way home from work, and I sat still while he drove. In the background was the frizzy, static-strewn political banter of local “stimulating talk radio” hosts John and Ken as they discussed the upcoming 2000 presidential election. When they cut for a commercial break, I chimed in.

Me: “Who are you voting for?”

Dad (keeping a straight face): “I’m not telling you.”

Me: “You should vote for Al Gore.”

I was in the second grade. I didn’t know anything about the political air or what the Democratic or Republican parties were — I just liked their animal mascots. What made me a Gore supporter was neither his promises nor his track record. Earlier that day at school, my class had gone through the latest issue of Scholastic News, and I had learned that Al Gore had two dogs. George W. Bush had only one.

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been sitting shotgun — airbag warning signs sewn all over the car advised against it, and the backseat is the safest place for children. But when you’re young and hopeful and unfazed by the harsher realities of the world, you only look forward to it, to sitting in the cockpit and being one seat closer to navigating the road from behind the wheel.

Determining the fate of your country is a daunting task. Even at that age, I knew that there were rules to observe and that there was a higher social authority to enforce. There are limits to what you can do, and your actions have consequences. When you vote, the ballot is a multiple choice exam with no right answer, only the best one. The only way to check your answer is to submit it and hope that you dodge the red ink 0f the sovereign majority.

If you win, you storm the field. There’s an undeniable pride and excitement of being on the winning team. You’ve contributed to the big push to propel something greater and grander into actualization, and it’s something that you can hold on to and take credit for.

On the other hand, if you lose, it’s more than a disappointment — there’s a somber tone to it, to mourning the death of a dream. Regardless of how expected the outcome, the final impact of the fall hits hard. It’s not a matter of conceding reality or of accepting things for what they are but a matter of what may or may not come next.

Still, it’s a consolation to have lost with the masses. Regardless of political affiliation, there’s no better place to wallow than in each other’s misery.

Even then, it’s not hard to move on. For the average voter, the 2012 Election Day may have been an election day, but to others around the globe,  it was just Nov. 6. It was a birthday, a due date, an anniversary, a deadline. It was all of the above and still just another square day in a calendar month. When we look back upon it further down the road, we’ll likely remember it for everything it’s not. Just like every other day, it will have been a tomorrow and it will have been a yesterday.

Inevitably, we’ll all move on, and the day will hold different meaning for each of us, if any at all. For the select handful, it will mark the journey of having run for president. For many more, it will be engraved as the milestone of having successfully registered and voted for the very first time. Win or lose, it’s better to have voted and lost — and to have piped up and had a say in the grand arena of political poetics — than to not have voted at all.

Image Source: karlo via Creative Commons

Contact Casie Lee at [email protected].