It is Tuesday, November 4, 2008. I walk onto my patio in northwest Tucson, AZ and gaze into Tucson's impossibly turquoise blue sky while the light begins to turn gold as the Sun makes it way toward California and day closes in on dusk. A cool breeze comes from the west and I watch a single almost ephemeral cloud float overhead. Perhaps it is a refugee from the rains reported in Southern California and as I watch it seems to fade and finally disappears from view.
I am left with a strange feeling. At once I find myself both excited and fearful because this is not just another day. This is Election Day in the United States, but more importantly it is THIS election day. A day on which Americans are faced with a failing economy, two disastrous wars, a wealth gap that would boggle the minds of the Gilded Age Robber Barons, and a clear choice between a man who represents the politics of the 19th and 20th centuries and one who embodies the ideals of the 21st.
I cast my vote almost two weeks ago thanks to early voting rules in the state. I did not have to stand in lines or participate in the community aspects of the voting tradition. At the time, I was grateful for the respite from the ritual but now, I feel somehow a bit cut off from my fellow citizens.
What is this thing I feel stirring around me? The day seems preternaturally quiet and drained of the usual perception of being surrounded by other people in a small condominium complex. I still hear the rumble of traffic from Interstate 10 to the west. I still hear dogs barking in neighbors backyards. I can't make up my mind. Are they barking more than usual?
What is this weight that seems to make me feel in turns giddy and frightened? Perhaps this is what the turn of history feels like when you stop to consider it.
Am I sharing the feelings of my ancestors during other pivotal times in American History? Even without the barrage of commentators and "poll numbers" did they feel this same gravity and sense that tomorrow could well change the course of the world?
In 1992 I worked tirelessly on Bill Clinton's first campaign. Election day of that year was one of the longest days of my life. Yet, at no point did I feel this gravity. Then, it was more of a party, most of the young people I worked with on that campaign seemed, like me, to simply be exercising their muscle and trying to recapture some semblance of 60's radicalism.
Today is different. I return inside and flip between MSNBC and CNN watching commentators nattering endlessly about race, political ads, "belle weather states", and video clips of notable people casting their votes. Somehow, they don't seem to feel the gravity. To them this is a job. They treat it as we did in 1992 as a sort of party and game.
Then they switch to the rare clip of an everyday voter. In their face you can read that same sense of gravity and history that I feel standing on my patio. Quickly, they return to more polls and telling us what we each feel based on their pollster's questions.
And around me I feel the weight of history. It's an amazing feeling and I find myself tearing up a bit. What an odd emotion, especially for someone who became involved in politics for awhile and became a cynic.
I don't know what the rest of the night will bring. I don't know what tomorrow will bring. But, for once in my life, I truly think that I know what the wheels of history feel like as they turn and I am overawed.
Dedicated to: Susan Harrison, Mid-Carolina High School who taught me that history happens every moment, not just in history books.