Huh. So Obama won, among many other items of current news. This blog is not political per se, so I don't want to get into my opinion of any of these races or ballot measures...I do have opinions. I vote, and I was modestly active this time around, contributing my money and my time to various causes, but that is not my point, here.
My point is that I'm remembering that twelve years ago, my first year at the school, was also an election year. And it's a very visceral memory, for some reason.
As I said, most of the campus closed down November 1st and a lot of the students and staff left campus for the break. I stayed on campus, because I didn't have anywhere else to go besides my parents' house, and I didn't feel like living with my parents for three months. They lived pretty close by, so I could do short visits whenever I wanted to. We cooked in the Great Hall kitchen, or in our dorms, did chores around campus, and read a lot. A few people did make-up work from courses they had failed earlier in the year.
And I had not paid a whole lot of attention to the election. I had just turned twenty, so I suppose I was not in the habit of electoral politics, and anyway campus was so much a separate world. We did not watch TV, and rarely listened to the radio or went online. It's not that we didn't have access to information, but we weren't constantly listening to the talking heads or watching campaign adds. All those things you think you absorb by osmosis--which movies are coming out, which brands are cool, which news stories are important--it turns out you don't get any of that if you don't watch TV. There is, instead, a great, restful, silence. And I wasn't used to reaching beyond that yet, either. I had just turned twenty. I was used to whatever I needed to deal with simply imposing itself on me, through teachers, parents, or the ever-present media. It takes time to adapt to change. So I'd registered and I'd voted, but I didn't have a huge investment in the results. I went to bed that night as normal, mildly surprised that there was no winner yet. The next morning I got up, meditated, brushed my teeth and so forth, and went down to the Great Hall and toasted a bagel on the woodstove. And I picked up the paper. And there was no president yet.
You remember what happened next, I'm sure; weeks of arguing and uncertainty over hanging and dimpled chads and finally the Supreme Court and President George W. Bush. For most of that time--that whole administration--I was aware of politics only intermittently, as though I had gone to another country. I was distracted by my school work, certainly. I have had to learn to be involved.
And I have learned. But to this day, when I think of election returns, I also think of the taste of bagels.