Being in Canada, I watch the cable news networks.
We have them too, Americans. I get CNN, MSNBC, the regular networks et al. I read Daily Kos, and my old local New Hampshire newspapers online. I check in with my hometown newspaper once a month of so, just to make sure that Rutland hasn't been washed away by some biblical deluge.
As an expatirate, I had to organize myself to get an absentee ballot quite awhile ago. When it arrived in early October, I voted and mailed it back in plenty of time to have my vote ready and waiting for November 4th.
The one thing I have not been....is in the US. Until this past week, when I came to visit my dear friend.
I saw signs for both candidates for President scattered pretty liberally on my meandering drive. New Hampshire tends to be a fairly politically active state, so it looked to me like the other multitude of Presidental years I spent there. Nothing horrifying like I had seen photos of and read in some accounts of people hanging effigies of Senator Obama in their yards.
Now it will not shock any of you reading that I don't tolerate hate speech well. Especially in code. I had, in fact, written to my own State Senator (Republican) and expressed my deep concern over the tenor of some of the "approved" message of the Republican party. Here is, in fact, my letter:
I am writing to express my deep concerns with the behavior which is being witnessed at Republican rallies across the United States.
As a New Hampshire citizen, I must believe that if this behavior ( yelling out Traitor - or Kill Him) happened within the Granite State that swift and complete renouncement would occur.
Furthermore, as the wife of a Black Man ( registered independent) and the mother of a bi-racial child ( age 10), I worry that there is more than a little racial hatred simmering beneath some of this reaction.
One of the reasons we chose New Hampshire to settle down and begin our family was the understanding that racism and hatred would not be tolerated.
I would ask you to speak with your party leaders and urge them to STOP or DENOUNCE this behavior Now. I can not tell you how sick it makes me to watch Republican rallies and witness such repugnant hate filled rhetoric.
Running a tough race is one thing - but this is stepping WAY over a line.
And we are better than that - I hope.
A little much, I know...but I felt I had to say something.
So imagine my surprise when checking out of the local Wal-Mart this week in the States while visiting my friend... (You really can't beat the 6 pairs of underwear for 6 bucks deal and the cheap Halloween candy, I mean - Come ON!)
It was maybe 2 in the afternoon and not terribly busy . I had stocked up on real Sudafed...and socks and undies and all the things I refuse to pay a fortune for in Canada. The cashier leaned over and said:
"At least it will all be over in the next week..."
I was half dreaming as I was waiting to be checked out. You know that dreamy kind of tired you get after the shopping hunt? Yeah, That was me.
"I'm sorry?", I said. My tone indicating that I hadn't been focused on her words.....but had merely half caught her statement.
"Over", she said, " In a week all this election stuff will be over."
"Oh - Yeah", I said. "I live in Canada now so I already mailed in my absentee voter ballot ages ago. I'm just down here visiting a friend."
"You probably don't get CBN up there do you? Well, you know that Obama was really born in Kenya and so he can't be President - He won't produce his birth certificate to prove he is an American. He is really Kenyan. "
Her inflection on the word Kenyan infuses the word with unsaid meanings. I hear them although she doesn't say them out loud. They are BLACK and FOREIGN and probably MUSLIM. They are TERRORIST and SOCIALIST.
"I don't believe that is accurate", I say. "He was born in Hawaii. His mother is from Kansas. So even if he was born in Kenya - which he wasn't - he is still an American citizen. "
She fixes her eyes on me.
"Why won't he produce a birth certificate? If he's got nothing to hide then he should show everyone his birth certificate."
"Well", I say. "He is a Senator. I have to believe if there was an authentic concern regarding his citizenship then it would have been fully investigated long before now..." I trail off. I am not sure what else to say.
"Well, if Pat says he isn't American then he needs to prove he is - If he's got nothing to hide, then he should show his brth certificate..."
I am at a loss for words. I mean I saw the woman tell John McCain "He's an A-rab" on CNN. I saw the woman in North Carolina yell "Socialist"and "Get out of here" when Barack Obama visited the restaurant. I saw further when he offerred his hand to her with a "How are you today Ma'am" and she refused to shake it.
And now here it is. A person making MAYBE $6.00 per hour, a woman who most likely does not have access to health insurance, a woman who does not benefit from the policies of the Republican party as far as I can see - and she has been made afraid by Pat Robertson. Someone who claims to speak for God is making her afraid of a potential President by playing on not even subtle veins of Racism and hatred that fly in the very face of the Religion for which they suppose to speak.
I wish I could tell you that I changed her mind. That I had a witty zinger that fixed everything.
But I didn't and still don't. I feel helpless and angry and sad.
It will Change.