20 October 2008

Struggling for Air in a Mudbath

It's fourteen days. Fourteen, ever-so-long, can't-it-end-already, God-make-it-stop, days. Hi, I'm The Marquise and I live in the political battleground state of North Carolina. And I am under siege. Please help me.

Normally we do not have such issues to contend with. While I live in a notoriously liberal part of the Old North State, it is arguably the only liberal part of the state. We are surrounded by conservatives on all sides, and generally the conservatives win, although we do sometimes sneak in an occasional Democrat in one of those outliers just to keep things interesting. But for many years, well really as long as I've been here since the college days, those of us with a liberal/Democrat/Libertarian/third party bent always knew, and somewhat accepted, we would be in the minority here.

But things have drastically changed this election. North Carolina presents a strange set of variables to both parties this year: still economically growing (if only just a bit) given this national recession, still experiencing a steady influx of new citizens from other parts of the country, still greatly utilizing (and I'm being especially kind when I use that word) illegal labor from Mexico, and still basing a large military population who are growing weary of being on their whatever number tour away from home (and in the Middle East mostly). Not to mention, a large segment of our population...the black vote...has been actively and aggressively targeted this election by both parties, but in new ways. Not only are they courted to register and actually vote, mind you, but also targeted with campaign messages that actually include them as members of the 'working professional' voter group. Considering what nonsense the late long-term Senator Jesse Helms put out (and, disturbingly, got away with), that last part of recognizing black professionals and intellectuals in this election is a huge step forward here.

The end result: a state that once was a given to be a 'red', Republican, and/or conservative in the electoral process is now fighting to keep its place there; and we citizens, who forever have been ignored and never really courted on a national stage, get our chance to finally hear and talk about the major issues of the day. It's like looking in on a fancy, lively, and stimulating dinner party for ages...and then someone comes up and gives you your own invitation.

What I don't think we were anticipating, though, was all the negative hubris that goes with being a 'battleground' state. The increasingly negative ads, from both sides, is steady now on all media outlets...and yet, we are still so new to this, you'll find us at bars, restaurants, etc., still looking at them whenever the ads show up on TV. Not so much for any new information (because they really never give us any), but rather at the total amazement of it all happening here. Suddenly we don't envy Florida, or Iowa, or Missouri anymore with this political mudbathing. Now we're so damn in the thick of it all we can't move without being reminded of it...flyers every day in the mailbox, commercials at every waking hour on any kind of outlet, constant pep rallies and speeches somewhere in state. We're beyond suffering from overkill, we're on the verge of being driven comatose.

The last 'big push' to keep each politician's name out there has been with the roadside campaign signs. Campaign signs are nothing new here (we're not that backward), but normally they are not more populous than the number of fallen leaves. Never has so many printers here been so busy, nor has so many followers been so determined in staking (and re-staking) said signs into any available piece of public property. And, as a final indication we've become overheated with this whole process, neighbour has pulled up contrarian signs of neighbour. It is not uncommon to see this kind of situation playing out on the road to my farm now:

One road, two houses, two very differing neighbours, just off a road littered...left and right, hill and valley...with one or the other candidate's supporters' signs as well. The above picture was taken on my way home from work last Tuesday. By Friday, the McCain sign had been bent in significantly more than pictured, crumpled so badly that it sagged in the center. By Saturday, the McCain sign had either been replaced with a shiny more erect one or the older one lovingly repaired...but the Obama one has gone missing entirely. As have about 10 other Obama ones along that road. I'm thrilled there is so much interest in the election this year, but I am beyond saddened some members of both sides can't accept differing points of view.

When this gets done...and I'm counting down now until the day it will be over...this will only end in heartbreak for somebody and a helluva lot of his supporters. But it's gotta end, and when it does, we need as a nation to move forward no matter the victor. This rampant polarization from both sides does the vast middle not a damn bit of good at all. I'm all for passion in politics, but sometime very soon that passion will need to be redirected to solving our many, many problems...and quickly. But, until then, it's going to get ugly in some places...and it's far from over here and in other battleground states, to be sure. I've dug in and am preparing for the worst.

This last home stretch is upon us now, and it's none too damn soon. But the day after? The day after I'll meet you on the road and we can start recycling all of these signs...no matter who wins the elections. We need to work...finally...together if we have any hopes of surviving as a nation at all.

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