Risky subject, but it gets on point eventually, really, so bear with me:
First, some background. I've been politically aware since roughly age 12, and politically involved shortly thereafter. In November, 6th grade, my teacher ran a "turkey" contest and my good friend Lola and I made a couple fabulous ones if I say so myself: we stuffed nylons, glued on feathers, and cut out and affixed the faces of Reagan and Bush. We won the prize for "Best Political Turkeys." This was also about the time I found out said 6th grade teacher, whom I adored, was voting for Reagan. I stayed after school one day to argue with him. I was eleven. Also about the time I announced to my mother and her friend, completely unprompted, that I would "only marry a democrat." (To date, still one of my mother's proudest moments, most likely topping my marathon run, and my PhD.) Four years later, Lola came to school dressed head to toe, veil included, in black to mourn the reelection.
I grew up in extremely conservative Arizona. "Conservative" probably does a disservice to conservatives, because "Wackjoblunatic" is probably closer to what the state put forth at that time. State representatives who asked that "Flat Earth" be taught in schools as a theory. Outright, virulent racism and sexism flowed from elected people's mouths and the newspaper. A governor who rescinded MLK Day with the most racist of rationales. I marched, I protested, I worked. On the exact day that I was old enough to do so, somewhere in the vicinity of my 18th birthday, I was sworn in as a deputy registrar so I could register my friends so they could sign the recall petition and vote in the special election to rid ourselves of our joke-of-a governor (which became unnecessary; the governor resigned in a flood of ethics allegations). (Aside: I needed a faculty sponsor to do this on school grounds, and my sponsor overheard the school librarians in the faculty lunchroom call my voter registration drive "anarchy.") The fall of my senior year, there was a vacancy due to the retirement of Sen. Barry Goldwater, and in my first campaign experience ever, I worked for the Democrat, a lovely man with a history of state experience. He lost to the guy with the (R) after his name, a forgone conclusion in AZ at the time. That guy's name was John McCain.
In sum, I grew up losing. Always losing. Always fighting. The roots of my cynicism lie here. Not just in politics mind you, but in a high school Chem teacher who told us on the first day of class he didn't understand why girls were made to take his class because it wasn't like we were going to need it anyway; a high school where religious seminary (of one particular religion only) counted as a class, toward your GPA; where I was called a slut (along with two other women who are now a lawyer and a biologist, respectively) by a teacher for dropping his lame-ass physics class so I could spend that time at the local university on an independent study with a professor investigating lupus.
My adult life has likewise been spent campaigning, phone calling, writing letters, ringing doorbells, attending rallies, marching, donating money. Bella was actually conceived not in our home state because Mr. ABF was working on a campaign elsewhere. I like to think I am about as plugged in and aware as an American citizen can get. If timing your reproductive cycles around the primary schedule doesn't spell commitment, I don't know what does.
So, you'd think with this background, and the previous eight years, that a person of my ilk would be rather overjoyed with the current embarrassment of riches on my plate. And I'm as cynical as ever.
I can't help but wonder if the loss of hope in my personal life is what makes my backhairs stand up like a cat when someone says, with complete earnestness and a wide smile, "HOPE!" May I just say, that the "Hope" hate runs deep and has a history dating back further than the present: the slogan of Children's Hospital, splashed on the very building and on the banners that pop up around my city in the most unexpected places like graffiti, is "Hope Lives Here." And once you start parsing those three words, in all of its combinations, you can see just how fucked up it is. Hope? Lives? HOPE LIVES?? Um, no. "Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here" would be much more appropriate, but probably wouldn't raise them much money.
Where was I? The Nihilism of Hope. Then there's the other side, the people who smile, again with the earnestness of people who live in some abstract "nation" where bad things happen to people in the newspaper only ("people are dying!" they say with deep concern, jabbing at the paper, as if I have no idea how it must feel as a parent to be told that your child is dead), and tell me how wonderful it is that we're finally in a place where my daughter can truly grow up and become anything she wants. Can I tell you something? About a month ago, out of nowhere, I guess after studying family relationships in school, Bella came home and told me she wanted to be an aunt. THAT was a tricky conversation, and I tried to mollify her dejected expression by explaining that some of her "aunts" weren't really. I will take the sex talk any day and nine times on Sunday over the rerun of that conversation when she gets older.
I am burned out. I'm in a state whose primary has never meant boo, and suddenly, here we are, apparently "the new Iowa." And I could care less. I am actually jealous of my friends who can get behind one or the other of these groundbreaking candidates and say all the hopeful, can-ful, change-ful, joyous things. They can see ahead, and see the difference. They're optimistic. Passionate. Angry. Emboldened. They read the papers and the blogs which make my eyes roll so hard my head hurts.
I have spent a good deal of time wondering what the old Tash, the pre 2/12/07 Tash would've thought of this particular duel. Would she come down strongly on one side or the other? Would she have gone to the mat for one of these candidates? Would she be marching and campaigning, dragging her children along with her? Would she be gleefully looking forward and wearing buttons with big letters expressing "Change" and "Hope"?
I can't even remember hope. I can't even remember what it was like to envision something turning out the right way. Having the sunshiney daydreams of a healthy family and a democratic presidency. If it seemed at the time far fetched, or inevitable, or somewhere in between. I have no idea if my current cynicism is the result of decades worth of fighting and losing, or a year of losing a battle I didn't even know I was a participant in until it was over, and I had lost.
"Hope" requires that you have an object at the other end to hope for, and even finding objects to "hope" about has been an extremely delicate business for me this past year. I had "hoped" that I would've lost the pregnancy weight by now. And mind you, I did not loaf about on my couch eating imported chocolate bars while "hoping" my jeans would finally fit again: I ate right, I purposefully set aside time last fall to run, and tried my damnedest, and my foot crapped out and failed me. I am now "hoping" that I will run again this year, and not need surgery to correct my foot. I had "hoped" that we might have some direction to move regarding having another child, but we have none, and that is leading to some serious inertia problems on my part. But "hope" also requires "faith." Faith that you or someone else or the universe will act in a way that the hope will materialize as reality. And that I lack totally. I have lost faith in people, science, "proof," odds, logic, love, friends, and family. There are no givens, no guarantees, and I am not about to leap over the breach for anyone, or anything, ever again, thank you. I live precisely in my moment, relying not very firmly, on myself and my gut. Would I like "Change?" I suppose I would, in the abstract. But I sat around worrying about "change" in the abstract before Maddy was born: would Bella do ok with a sibling? Would I do ok without sleep? Would we be able to function as a family of four? And look where THAT got me. Have any of these people considered that the very Hope and Change they desire may not come to pass at all? That the discussion may shift entirely under their feet, for absolutely no reason, and when they least expect it?
I'm not sure where this leaves me other than bitter and "undecided." Believe me, when the time comes, I'll send in my money, and vote, because I know in the end either of these people are vastly better than what exists now, or, as I learned beginning my senior year of high school, what exists on the other side. Please don't fill my comment sections with position papers and links to blogs and op eds, because believe me, I'm aware of them, I just don't care. Not to mention I'm going to be inundated with all that over my phone and mailbox in the upcoming month. What you can tell me is how the aftermath of grief has spilled over into other areas of your life -- your politics, your religion, your work -- and whether the loss of life, hope, and joy bleeds into other areas that you used to get fired up about. Would this bitterness have come about anyway given my age? Maybe I've just been around too long? Possibly. Or maybe this is just another piece of the old Tash breaking off and drifting away with all the yard signs, pins, t-shirts, righteousness, and Hope.