Letters

Meredith Maran's essay about driving her 96-year-old neighbor to vote brings inspiration, hope -- and more than a few tears.


Salon Staff
November 9, 2004 1:00PM (UTC)

[Read "Driving Ms. Anderson," by Meredith Maran]

Thank you for this lovely and moving article. I'm an Ohio native who has lived for several years in Europe and am in a state of utter shock and despondency over this election, along with plenty of other like-minded people from my home state. I keep thinking to myself, "This is not the America I grew up in." Until I remember the bigotry and divisiveness of the '60s, the bitter Nixon years, the Stonewall riots. Even though it feels like "déjà vu all over again" right now, beautiful and gentle people like Ms. Anderson remind me of the hopeful American heart that keeps beating despite the darkness that often surrounds it.

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I can only pray that this proud woman lives to see the next election. We need her vote, and her optimism.

-- Emily B. Petrou

OK, this piece made me cry (as if I haven't seriously been feeling like I needed to cry since the election anyway!). Thank you for writing this, Meredith.

-- Greg Wharton

I am a 48-year-old white male. I have shaved my head recently and grown sideburns in the hopes of dissuading people from stereotyping me as a middle-aged conservative male. I had decided to leave the U.S. prior to the election if the outcome was what it has become. I was still making plans to move to Canada or more hopefully Spain when I read "Driving Ms. Anderson." I bawled my eyes out sitting in my little 8-x-12 cubicle while reading about a woman that you portray as what I would consider one of the great Americans of this great country.

I am an immigrant of sorts. My mother was Welsh, my father American by birth but Welsh by upbringing. I was born in Germany and was naturalized when my mother became a citizen. I have always believed in the principles on which this country was founded. I have fought all my life for the civil liberties of all people, mostly by being vocal and loud about those beliefs and writing my congresspeople.

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Yet with this election, I thought not only was the fight lost, but also that I didn't have the strength of will to continue fighting. Your article has changed all that.

I will remain in this country. I will strengthen my resolve to stand and to die if I have to, in order to secure the civil liberties of every human being on this planet, not just Americans. I will do this for Ms. Anderson, and for those others who were not born a white, American, heterosexual, Christian male and therefore are not afforded every advantage that this country can provide, and yet have fought against great odds to secure those rights and advantages.

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Thank you for your article, and please thank Ms Anderson: Her strength of character has given at least one person a little more strength to go on and fight the good fight.

-- Len Probert

Lovely, lovely story. Reminds me of my old Lebanese neighbor Edna, whom I miss. The story is not at all hopeful, but it deeply confirms the real values of living.

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-- Nadine Fiedler

On Wednesday I told my boss I had to leave work early. I did everything I could not to cry on the subway ride home. I saw other passengers with their Kerry and anti-Bush pins on looking just as bleak as I was. When I finally found a seat next to a woman with her eyes closed, head leaned back, I realized she had her Kerry pin on, too, and was feeling just as devastated as I was.

I got home, shut the door behind me, and wailed. I haven't cried like that since I was last brokenhearted by some guy who wasn't worth the tears. It hurt so bad, I cried and cried and cried for the loss of this candidate who I had really begun to like, who I hoped would be our next president, whom I was counting on to save us from this nightmare. I cried for my discombobulation, from the realization that our country is not who I thought we were. I cried as I drained the hope that had welled up in me over four years of inauguration protests, antiwar protests, anti-Republican National Convention protests, all the Ani DiFranco songs that spoke to ending this weapon of mass destruction from being our president. All the books that were published. All the films/documentaries that were made. All the people that worked so hard (all the MoveOn people, all the ACT people, all the League of Pissed Off Voters People, all the Kerry/Edwards/DNC people). All my friends and family. We worked so hard. It just breaks my heart.

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Anyway, I find it hard to be happy about anything these days. I forget for a while what just happened as I get caught up in work, and then I remember and my heart just sinks. I can't believe we have to endure four more long years. I'm tired. I am just so very tired of hating Bush.

Thank you, Meredith Maran, for your writing. You have inspired me.

-- Rayne Roberts

I too am devastated about these results, and need to find some way to positively channel sadness, anger. Maran reminds me that in our troubled world, writing still retains the ability to connect the reader to the raw and open humanity of the other, whoever the reader and the other may be. Perhaps writing, this kind of writing, is our best hope for understanding and connection.

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-- Steven Barrie-Anthony

Because I've been so busy trying to make it as a professional drag queen I didn't have the time to register people to vote or travel to a swing state and persuade people to vote for Kerry as I had planned. So at the last minute I decided it wasn't too late to be active. After donning a very patriotic ensemble that included a white star-studded blue thong and a tiny red tutu, I was off to make a political difference. I grabbed my larger-than-life sign that read: "DEFEAT BUSH" in blue and red glitter letters (of course!) and headed to the corner of 66th and Telegraph Avenue. For two hours, with one leg in Berkeley and the other in Oakland I waved to cars in a peaceful protest. Although I know most people in this area voted against Bush, I still felt a great need to be supportive, a cheerleader if you may. The traffic showered me with honks, waves and finger peace signs and passersby gave me hugs and thanked me for doing my part. I felt proud and was filled with joy -- but unfortunately, those feelings were short lived.

The next morning the first thing I asked my partner of 12 years was, "Has Kerry conceded yet?" He had. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse he told me that 11 states had outlawed same-sex marriage. I was devastated. Just eight months ago we waited in line for three hours in the rain trying to get married in San Francisco, all in hopes to change America's beliefs with sheer numbers alone. Two steps forward three steps back.

The next day I was ready to move to Costa Rica and buy a bed-and-breakfast and leave this all behind for a simple and quiet life. But then I read "Driving Ms. Anderson," by Meredith Maran, and realized my beliefs would follow me and that I wouldn't have a place to wear my dresses! So I'll still dream of retiring in Costa Rica -- but for now I'm putting on my "Fuck Bush" tank top and fighting for my rights to be human and to be gay in any and every way I can. Thanks to Salon for publishing that inspiring story and for keeping one drag queen fighting for our rights here at home where she belongs.

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-- Diva Dan


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