"This election is giving me shingles!" Readers tell Salon how politics is affecting them.

By Salon Staff

Published October 28, 2004 7:00AM (EDT)

[Read Cary Tennis' invitation to write about the ways politics is affecting you.]

Is politics freaking me out? You better believe it. I can't read too many Salon articles at once or I can't sleep at night. I have a mental shortlist of countries where I might like to live. I have already planned to have a box of tissues available on Election Night. I keep consoling myself with the idea that there are social and political cycles and damned if we aren't in the middle of one, and "This too shall pass."

I have heard it argued that if the neocon cycle is short-circuited by a Kerry victory, then the neocons will simply go back underground to nurse their wounds and reemerge with a newer and even more attractive, subtle and utterly destructive plot in four years, and people will believe them because they weren't fully exposed. A Bush victory, it is argued, would give them the rein, nay, the divine authority, to do what they want, and it would be so bad that everyone would see them, their crimes would be exposed, and their attractiveness forever erased.

I can grant that argument except for two things: First, I am not sure I have faith in the media and the Congress to stand up to them. I do believe in Karl Rove's power to deflect and turn criticism back on itself and the critic. I believe in Tom DeLay's bullying. So I am not convinced that their crimes would be revealed and punished. Second, what damage can they inflict in another four years, unconstrained by the onus of trying to not completely alienate the moderates in order to achieve reelection? We have already visited another tremendous evil on Iraq. What other ways will they find to erode our freedom and destroy our democracy? What new enemies will we cement?

These are my fears.

Now, would I act on any currently vague plans to leave the country? Hard to say. But the thought is there, and that's something I never, ever thought I'd say. I love my country very much, but its politics is freaking me out.

-- Lisa Wright

I have been worried sick about a Bush victory next month. The election is nearly all I can think of. Last night I ended up so frazzled that I knew I would have to take a mini-vacation for the rest of the week, just chilling out, doing housework, and not hearing any political news. I hope I feel better on Monday.

-- Miriam Weiss

I've been voting for over two decades and I've never been this frazzled over an election. I wake up every morning frightened that Bush will be reelected. I just can't take another four years of him, his henchmen Cheney and Rumsfeld, and his supporters, especially the evangelicals.

My mother was born in Canada, then renounced her citizenship as a teenager in Detroit. If she fills out a form from the Canadian government she can get it back, and then I can be a Canadian citizen too. I've actually been looking into this, although I don't know that I would seriously consider moving out of the Bay Area. My other idea is to try to get California, Washington, Oregon and maybe Wisconsin and Minnesota to lop ourselves off from the U.S. and become part of Canada.

I feel I need some kind of plan to cope if Bush gets reelected. Medication, perhaps. I will surely need to do a lot of yoga. Maybe a support group. I don't know. I just want it to be over and Bush to be gone.

-- Julia Shure

What freaks me out is that despite evidence to the contrary, Bush supporters still believe in WMDs by the score in Iraq, and that Saddam and bin Laden regularly took tea together. When independent sources repeatedly state that there were no WMDs or connections between al-Qaida and Iraq, how can people ignore the facts?

-- Karen Isaacson

It's true, politics is completely freaking me out. I have shingles. I am 30 years old, in otherwise fine health, and I have shingles. This election has totally taken over my brain: I read all the news reports and polls. I update everyone around me constantly with whatever news I learn, and the thing is, they are already just as embroiled in it as I am. I watched all of both conventions, the debates, and the spin that followed. I believe this country is in serious trouble and really the state of the world and its future is in the balance.

To me, this election is about the fundamental differences that lie between living your life fully aware and informed and choosing to believe in black/white and not question the information given to you. I understand some people can't embrace life and its challenges and instead choose to put their blinders on and follow. But, you know, these people shouldn't be the ones to choose our fate.

-- Maggie Vail

As another American overseas, I too am in the "freaking out" category of what is happening to our beautiful, beloved country. Whenever I come home for a visit, everyone seems to be in a state of constant fear -- and of what, I don't think even they know.

What I do know is that as a New Yorker living in London, I am embarrassed at times to be an American. It feels shameful and dirty to think we have decided that "preemptive" action is appropriate, that we have killed thousands of people without a reason. That we don't work together with other countries but bully them into "cooperation." I find it hard to explain why I, a registered Conservative, have no choice but to vote for Kerry. Our country is being run by a madman right now.

I do still believe in so many of the things Conservative: less government, less taxes, etc. And I wish I could get the people back home to realize how awful the American reputation has become as a result of this filthy war. I've been told by my half-brothers to renounce my American citizenship since I was against it.

So of course it's affecting me emotionally. It's affecting my family, my friends and new family here in the U.K. But at least I can say I voted. And I can tell my 4-month-old son that I did the best I could.

-- Christine Morton

What really disturbs me is when I am driving and I see Bush/Cheney bumper stickers, I actually have to remind myself that while ramming into the back of the SUV would be wholly satisfying, it would hurt me physically and throw my financial life into chaos -- two things I can ill afford in this political atmosphere.

-- Underemployed and Uninsured

I have been freaked since November 2000, when our country suffered a coup d'état. The fact that there are international observers coming to monitor this election heightens my level of disenfranchisement, stress and fear.

I am not some insane conspiracy theorist, but I know it has been proved that when society is fat, lazy and addicted to the soporific drugs of reality television, Wal-Mart and semi-hemi SUVs, they will walk in lockstep with whatever demagogue who feeds their blood lust for conquest -- as long as they don't have to get off their fat asses.

Yes, if Bush wins, I will leave the country in protest. I did in the '80s, and am prepared to do so again. Since our president has come into office, I have lost a $180,000-a-year job due to "outsourcing and downsizing," yet I just read the company I was asked to leave posted record profits -- go figure.

My 84-year-old mother has the "bad luck" of having actual assets, so cannot benefit from our president's Medicare "windfall." I am only minimally insured healthwise and operate on the basis of prayer as preventable medicine. I'd go on, but I might have a stroke --and frankly --I can't afford it.

-- Julie A. Bayley

I moved to Washington, D.C., because I loved politics. I originally lived in South Carolina and worked as a bartender in a popular bar filled with politicians. I loved charming rascals who made sleazy backroom deals. I loved the grit and grime of politics. I cared passionately about issues. But since I moved to D.C., I've become increasingly polarized and angry about politics. This year has pushed me over the edge.

I can't stand Bush -- he reminds me of every preppy, entitled, charming, rich Southern guy I met in South Carolina who believed in nothing, stood for nothing, and date-raped sorority girls. I don't like Kerry either. What does he stand for? How the hell is he considered a liberal? I feel he's squandered this campaign. After Enron, the war in Iraq and the debacle that is Afghanistan, all my friends that were laid off, and the raping of our civil rights by the Bush administration, how can it even be this close? Is Kerry different from Bush? Not really: Bush puts on the "born-again Christian" coat to talk to some people; Kerry puts on the "Vietnam Vet" coat to talk to others. Both of them are entitled rich preppies that don't really give a shit about anything.

What do I care about? I care about those young guys being killed daily in Iraq because they believe in God and country and are fighting to defend us -- both of these politicians are using them. I believe in abortion rights for all women and federal daycare for all. Neither the "pro-life" or "pro-choice" candidate is talking to them. I believe in Social Security and better healthcare for the elderly. I believe that our bloated and inefficient government should stay out of our lives mostly but not actively work to kill us either. And as a person who works with refugees all over the world, I've witnessed firsthand the atrocities of war and poverty and terrorism. The U.S. government only helps those "poor people" that can help them out. A Kerry administration is not going to help the people of Liberia or Nepal. Neither of these guys speaks to me on any level.

One of the best memories I have was on my 18th birthday, when my father took me to the voter registration office to register me to vote. I've avidly followed every election and always voted. I write to my members of Congress. I read the paper daily. I try to follow the issues and although I lean way, way left, I thoughtfully try to weigh them out and make informed choices. For the first time in 19 years, I don't want to vote. I don't want to cast my vote for Kerry, who doesn't seem all that different from Bush to me. I'm sick of the Democratic Party trying to scare me by telling me that Bush is going to win and destroy this world (and they are right). I certainly cannot bring myself to vote for the worst president that I've seen (and I was raised hating Reagan). Nader? That's throwing your vote away: He would be a terrible president. Where is my alternative? Where is the candidate that I can actually identify with and vote for with pride and patriotism?

So what do I do? I turn off the TV whenever election news comes on. I skip those articles in the paper. And I've stopped reading Salon.com every day (which I've done since it launched) because there's no content except partisan Democratic hackery on it. And I wait for Nov. 2 and hope that someone wins by a landslide so we don't repeat 2000's embarrassment. I'm sick of defending the U.S. all over the world.

-- Sarah Martin

A recent incident has made me so upset. My family is conservative (fiscally rather than socially), and they are among the few conservatives in our family and social circle. They are extremely intelligent and kind people, and during a recent wedding (mine), they carefully stayed away from political discourse out of respect for all the friends and family of different beliefs. They publicized that they would be doing this, and gently asked others to keep to the same policy (which of course most people would do anyway! It was a wedding, for goodness sake!).

Two close relatives and friends of extreme liberal viewpoints decided, however, that it would be fun to bait their conservative hosts. They seemed to think it was so funny to snidely and publicly mock them when they knew that my parents wouldn't respond.

It pains me that these friends/relatives of mine would treat my family this way, especially when they were feasting upon their hospitality. It turned me off from enjoying their presence at my wedding. I'm still angry about it, and it has made me think a lot about how to behave in social situations when one is a guest.

-- [name withheld]

Salon Staff

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