"I'm crabby and resentful that my state isn't a battleground one, so my vote isn't being courted." Readers tell Salon how politics is affecting them.

By Salon Staff
Published November 2, 2004 7:00AM (UTC)
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[Read Cary Tennis' invitation to write about the ways politics is affecting you.]

I am a staunch liberal. I have voted for Green Party candidates but mostly vote Democratic. I am a 58-year-old single mom with a 14-year-old son whom I am encouraging to question authority, even mine. (This is sometimes a painful process, but is necessary for our individual growth, I think.)

When the Watergate hearings were going on, I spent many mesmerized and horrified hours in front of my little black-and-white TV until I got overloaded by the whole mess, threw the TV over the porch rail, and split for the hills -- literally. I moved to the East Wind community in the Ozark Mountains in Missouri, from inner-city Detroit. I have learned much during my time in the community and since I returned to Detroit, but I am afraid that I never did learn the value of "conservative values."

What I am seeing is a wing of the Republican Party so self-righteous and narcissistically blinded by its own sense of moral entitlement that it is ignoring the growing outrage not only of the citizens of the United States but of the greater global community. We are embroiled in a war that is eating our young and the citizens of another country. We have placed ourselves in a position that seems not to allow for any attempt to mitigate the damage we have done in Iraq. This damage was inflicted based on what have turned out to be fictitious grounds. My child will work his whole life to pay bills piled up by the present administration in pursuit of a terrible wrong that it will not acknowledge.

My child and I are poor. I run a household with very limited funds and realize that I must remain within my budget or dire things will befall us. This is a no-brainer situation for me; why do people who try to lead this country not see the same simple truth?

I live in the second-poorest city in the United States, with a school district of commensurate quality. I had to enroll in a lottery in order to get my son into a decent school. I am very aware of the great amount of luck that led to his name being pulled out of a hat. I am grateful that he was chosen and enraged that such a system is in place. Why should my neighbor's children endure a second-rate education? All these kids are entitled to excellence.

It is my duty to ensure that my son continues in his excellent school placement, so I cannot retreat from the political situation this time around. So I am writing to you, raising my feeble little voice, and asking:

What is going on? Why is this country so polarized on these issues? How can 48 percent of America (the most recent poll number I have seen) be looking at the same set of circumstances that I am looking at and come down on the other side of the fence? Over there lies more death and destruction and untruth. Over there lies further curtailment of individual rights. Over there lies more fiscal irresponsibility. What is "compassionate" about what is happening to our country now?

-- Benita M Winslow

I've known politically conservative people all my life. The John Birch Society uncle, the dewy-eyed Reagan supporters, the slightly condescending older Republicans giving me the "you'll know better when you grow up" pat on the back are a few examples of them.

The pod people Bushies, however, unnerve me like none of those ever could.

Maybe it's just me. Certainly I'm intolerant of the current president and his circle. So intolerant that I can't believe that people want to vote for him. What are they thinking?

Scarier, though, are two problems that won't go away even if Kerry succeeds in getting elected. The first is the obvious. Bush supporters, the radical right, won't wake up from (what I believe to be) their delusions. They will remain a political and social force in this country.

The second problem is: How are we going to convince the rest of the world that we won't elect someone like Bush again?

Those two problems are part of what keeps me up at night, typing letters to places like Salon at 3:30 a.m.

-- Michael Rasmussen

I'm afraid for my country. Bush and the neocons scare the hell out of me. The PATRIOT Act scares me. The deficit scares me. Bush's puzzled chimpanzee stare scares me.

I worry that Kerry will win the election, win the Electoral College -- and we won't win the White House. I am almost obsessed with the idea that there has been a coup and the results of this election may be proof that we are now a banana republic.

I've lived in Italy and Mexico. I know how amazing this country can be. I see the idea, the dream this country is, being dismantled and rebuilt with fear. The truth is we were never safe. No one in the world is safe. All we were was lucky. But, like children awakened from a bad dream, we seem to be sitting on our beds in the darkness, whimpering for someone to make it safe again. We are making international policy and attacking other nations to try to get our virginity back (to mix my metaphors). And this scares me badly.

If the Bushies win, I want us to rise up and march in the streets. I don't want us to go gentle into the good night. We must rage, rage against the dying of the light. And I'm afraid we won't.

-- Sharon Burton

Yes, I'm freaked out. The one thing I'm sure of, though, is that (unless the last vestige of democracy is destroyed and this country becomes, literally, a fascist dictatorship) I'm not leaving.

I'm in my 40s and, though I don't have children of my own, am starting to think less of my own, personal future and more about the legacy we are (I am) leaving to future generations. So, unless there are actually neo-American Gestapo at my door, I won't let those evil sons of bitches scare me away from my country. I'll stay and fight for the country we could be, the genuine American dreams of true equality, economic justice, representative democracy, flourishing natural resources and a culture of openness, innovation and compassion.

Yes, I'm scared that W will steal the White House again and that another four years of Cheney-Bush policy will cause even more senseless death, destruction and increasing poverty here and abroad -- not to mention more and more repression of the free expression that I grew up believing was unassailable. If they do manage to pull that off, the years to come will be grim and the fight will be hard -- but we can't despair. We can't afford to despair!

-- The Rev. Francesca Fortunato

Is the current political situation freaking me out? You bet.

But I think there's safety in numbers, and if I'm going to cry my eyes out on Tuesday, I'm not doing it alone. My husband and I have invited 30 people to our house -- we'll drink margaritas if Kerry's leading, and we're doing straight shots of tequila if Bush is. The RSVPs have been rolling in.

-- Alissa Surges

I'm not sure what's going on, on my television.

It's something about wolves. I think the Bush campaign is trying to tell me that if I don't vote for them, I'm going to be devoured by wild animals. I've never actually seen a wolf, personally, but even in my city apartment, they do look pretty scary. Am I voting for the wrong person? Is my gory demise imminent? They have very big teeth, those wolves.

But then it's off to the Swift Vets, with fewer teeth and more medals. They're saying something about the medals and I'm trying to figure out how this fits in with my dad's recollection of Vietnam. Apparently, it's now not only unpatriotic to question Iraq, it's also unpatriotic to question Vietnam. My university is still reeling and ranting about May 4, 1970, but I figured that the country was pretty much in agreement about the whole war thing there. Guess not. Now we're traitors about to be eaten by wolves.

There's no October surprise here in Ohio, just more and more of the same. Republicans and Democrats are both acting like I'm a 4-year-old who can be swayed by repeating the same thing often enough.

So what do I do? Move out of state? Buy a TiVo? And where does one get wolf-proof body armor?

In all seriousness--how do I make it until Nov. 2 without deciding that they all need to go to hell and skipping voting altogether?

-- Susan Tussing

I am certainly on edge, tense, prone to a deep anger that simmers just under the surface, hostile to all things Bush, and ready to let fly at the least provocation. Everything I have believed in and worked for the last 30 years is shot to hell by Bush & Co.

-- Scott Copeland

I'm trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my career, but my productivity pretty much sucks because I can't stop checking the various political blogs and reading articles in the magazines I'm supposed to be checking in.

I've come down with bronchitis for the first time in over a decade and I walked around for nearly a week thinking it was merely allergies and that I wasn't getting enough sleep at night because I'm spending so much time trying to keep track of all of the political news.

I'm crabby and resentful that my state isn't a battleground one so my vote isn't being (and has never been) courted. I'm torn over whether I should publicly renounce Nader as attrition for publicly supporting him in 2000 (not that I blame him for Florida; I blame widespread disenfranchisement of the African-American vote and the willingness of the political establishment to let it happen without consequence). Also, I'm guilty that I'm using my not-so-copious vacation time to go to professional events and conferences rather than heading to a swing state to help mobilize voters.

And-and-and I'm wondering if I should apply to Canadian grad schools just to have an option to leave.

So, yeah ... I'm freaking.

-- Eli Edwards

I come from a proud tradition of citizen-soldiers and professional soldiers. In one way or another, members of my family have been called to serve since the time of George Washington. In addition, I count ambassadors, international lawyers, doctors with international assignments, and employees of the CIA as my close relatives. Common dinner table conversation in my family ranges from firsthand accounts of WWII to the early days of the CIA to the Geneva Convention. I am no expert, but this type of discussion has given me a gut-level feeling for what is proper and what is illegal in the arena of war.

I live in the deep South. Kerry-Edwards doesn't even bother coming to my state. My neighbors have Bush signs in their front yard. In traffic, I wait in long lines of SUVs with "Christian fish" below the rear window. My father sends me e-mail snippets from Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. And I spend a part of each day researching and reading the awful truth of what is happening. I print out a lot of it to keep in files because our delicate democracy has been stolen by about a dozen angry white men with corporate sponsorship. To make it more palatable, they have wrapped themselves in the flag and fear-monger by calling their opponents "dangerous liberals." Remember, for the military-industrial complex, war is always a good thing. Plus, war takes the population's mind off other issues such as healthcare, education and safe drinking water.

Yet I still hold out hope. I still keep a small flame lit -- protected from the violent, hateful winds -- that the majority of Americans see what I see and resist the takeover. There must be accountability. Remember a time when Americans were supposed to protect human rights around the globe?

-- Jennifer Fuller

Why are people so bitter about this election? It is like we are on the verge of civil war, but too obsessed with our TVs to organize a battle. People, my friends, openly deride each other, lewdly referring to each other as conservatives, liberals, Christians, atheists, scum -- as if holding a contrary opinion (or belief) was an instant ticket to social anathema. These are people who are intelligent, bright folk who I would have previously guessed avoided the fervor and jingoism that seems to have permeated society. I think, at times, discussions have narrowly missed coming to blows. What is wrong with people? If you're conservative Christian, aren't you worshipping a god that tells you to turn the other cheek? If you're progressive liberal, aren't violence and war obsolete?

Why are we fighting so much?

I guess what I'm worried about is that all this is going to tear the country apart. After the election is done. After the recounts and the electron voting fraud and whatnot, where will we stand? Will people warm up and come together, or keep pulling it apart?

Am I the last person on the face of the planet who wants calm discussion, an unbiased list of facts, and general respect for people with dissenting opinions?

-- Karl Haase

Salon Staff

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