This post isn’t really about voting; it’s more about the aftermath of the election. As I watched Barack Obama’s speech on television, I was fascinated by the close-ups of faces in the crowd. There were college kids, and older people, a little girl perched on her dad’s shoulders. There were all kinds of backgrounds, all shades of skin. Some people were crying, some folks had their hands clasped or folded under their chins. And the faces of the McCain crowd were just as fascinating. Again, there were some tears, some clenched jaws, but most people looked thoughtful. They were really listening.
And I’m grateful for this. For the first time in a long time, I feel like we as a country are listening to each other again. At least, I hope we are. I really do. Who says we all have to be the same, or vote for the same person? Our differences make us strong. We’re a melting pot. We take the best of different cultures, different backgrounds, different opinions. We’ve got all the bases covered. And when it comes down to it, we’re still neighbors, family members, parents, friends. That’s what I think it means to be American. You may not agree with your next door neighbor, but you come to their aid when they need help, and you trust that they’ll do the same because you share a street.
I’m not a very political person. I can’t keep all the undersecretaries straight. I forget the names and numbers of propositions. I usually have my nose buried in a book. But this election felt different to me. It felt personal.
I write fiction because I’m fascinated with other people’s lives. I love characters who are outsiders, enjoy the scheming dynamics of small-town settings, and, most of all, love the kinds of books where you develop sympathy for someone totally outside your own sphere. Now, for the first time in a long time, I have hope again that reading novels might matter a little bit in the big picture. I think people are ready again to let themselves be transformed, to open themselves up to something unknown, to reach out to someone who seems like a stranger and make them into a friend, accepting their flaws, their differences, their quirks.
Now that the election is over, I think we need to go on the way book clubs do. We need to meet each other somewhere with good food, bring our common copies and differing opinions of the same text to the table, and see what we learn from each other. You might learn something you didn’t know. You might still hate the book. You might make a new friend. But you’ll never know until you crack the spine, show up to the party, and find out.
Bon Vivant and Viva the USA!