Several of my friends have been sending various pieces of writing around in response to the election. I sat down yesterday (November 4) to do something similar, partly just to vent, partly in the hopes to start floating some ideas around and get people thinking about a way out of this mess, this polarized (as the pundits like to call it) America…

I am in what could best be described as post-electoral depression. I remember when the U.S. most recently went to war in Iraq, my cousin in Germany (I still lived in Boston at the time) called me and talked about being in a "deep depression" in the face of the political situation. I was truly upset about the decision to go to war, but I couldn’t quite comprehend how my cousin could really be clinically depressed because of politics. Now I understand. Kerry contested the Ohio vote around 7:30am Berlin time. I was still awake to hear it because I did not go to bed on election night. At 8am, unable to keep my scoliosis-ridden back in any position close to vertical, I went to bed and slept 3 very fitful hours. Upon waking, I had no will to shower, no will to eat. I tuned my radio to the BBC but stopped listening after 15 minutes. I couldn’t stand hearing the discussion. In a complete daze, I went to Ikea to buy new bed linens of all things. Retail therapy, is what Cosmo calls it. As I stood on the train, I looked at the people around me. "If they knew I was American, they’d hate me," I thought. I saw a class of school children and prayed that their lives won’t be negatively affected by what has happened. Telling myself I was overreacting didn’t seem to help me shake these melodramatic thoughts. I found out that Kerry had conceded because a German friend of mine with a dark sense of humor left a message of mock victory on my voice mail. I went to bed at 9pm without eating dinner. Today I have recovered from my complete aversion to the news, but I can’t bring myself to read a German newspaper, convinced that what I read will be uninformed – but justified – criticism of my countrymen.

I am registered as an independent. For the first time in my life, I am seriously considering joining a political party. I don’t think the Democrats are all that great. I didn’t like Clinton at all. But then again, I wasn’t worried about Clinton and his political allies ruining the country that I still call home. I live abroad, which has its advantages, but if I return in four years, when my residence permit expires, I may be returning to a land I don’t recognize. I may no longer have the right to an abortion. I may not even be able to get free STD-testing at Planned Parenthood because their funding may simply have been cut too much. My gay and lesbian friends may have already been driven to a life of secrecy or exile. My great-niece, who would just be beginning kindergarten, may be taught that God created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th, which would be fine if she weren’t attending the same public school where I was taught that homo erectus was our ancestor and not some scientists’ hoax. Of course, she wouldn’t have any homosexual teachers (even though any sensible teacher – regardless of orientation – wouldn’t bring her sexuality into the classroom in the first place), and if Jim deMint, the newly elected Republican Senator from South Carolina gets his way, there won’t be any unmarried mothers writing on that chalkboard either. Hell, maybe by virtue of living abroad for five and a half years and having dual citizenship, I may not be allowed back in the country on the grounds of some cooked-up "unamericanness".

I’m undecided on this idea of joining a party. A firm believer that partisanship can undermine issue-oriented efforts, I’ve coveted my independent voter’s status. When it comes right down to it, I’m too conservative for a lot of my Democratic friends’ tastes and I would prefer not to undermine a future career as a writer by getting myself labeled as a Democratic Party hack or a rabid liberal. I wonder if people voicing right-of-center views consider the effects of such labels on their careers. Then again, why would they? Didn’t you know all liberals are certifiably insane?

The thing that troubles me most is that I don’t know who the America is that elected Bush to a second term. And it’s not Bush that scares me so much as everything he stands for and the faith-based conservative movement his people have mobilized, a movement that I see excluding groups of people both inside the U.S. and across the globe. I don’t personally know a single person who voted for Bush. That worries me, because as far as I’m concerned, it’s a ghost vote occupying a different plane of existence. How can there be any debate in this country when the different sides aren’t talking to each other? Can we really be so different, or is it a matter of information and dialogue? I think it was Thomas Friedman who, in his New York Times column today, wrote that if you had taken a poll of Americans who read the Times and those who watch Fox News, you would have gotten the same figures as the election produced. I’m not necessarily advocating watching Fox for the sake of democracy, but isn’t there some way to start talking so that we don’t enter some kind of weird cultural civil war?

I need to express this outrage, however exaggerated my fears for the next four years might be. I’m still not sure what I think. I just know that I’m completely depressed because the country I call home, the country to which I do indeed pledge my allegiance is apparently heading toward a society of exclusion. Last I checked, that wasn’t the point of America. That’s not what a so-called "freedom-loving country" stands for. But apparently it’s easier to sell hate than openness, because being open takes courage.

Signed, a very sad patriot