In 1999, I turned to my husband and said, "They're not going to elect this clown, are they?"
"Nah," he said. "Even with Clinton fatigue the economy is doing too well, and you don't vote against your own wallet."
We didn't take the neocons into account, and we didn't realize the fear that the Republican party could generate in the campaign. We didn't realize how thoroughly the Gore campaign was going to ride on the Clinton's achievements with the base, and we watched with horror as America preferred to have a beer with its leader as opposed to setting that leader to the people's work.
We didn't think the Supreme Court would actually disenfranchise voters on the National Stage.
We were wrong- it had the sensation of looking in a rear view mirror, stopped in traffic, as a truck is plowing towards the car fast enough and near enough that the inevitable impact is a fact. The mirror made for a sense of detachments, but it was a joke and both us and the mirror knew it.
Until 9/11 we made complacent fun of W's local yokel affectations, sneering about Greenwich origins, and being born on third base. Then, the attack happened.
I had a sinus infection that morning, and called in to work so that I could go to the doctor's and get some antibiotics. After setting in with some tea, I decided to watch Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift in "Raintree County," a Technicolor drama set during the Civil War. The war wasn't the point; the point was that Mrs. was insane and Mr. had to rescue their kid from an attic (I think).
The movie ended and the credits rolled on TMC at 8:45 am. I flipped over to channel 4 (WNBC New York) and saw my first sight of the Twin Towers, just after the first impact. The smoke streamed across my screen to the right, and off to the upper corner. The eyes saw, but the brain didn't register. I flipped back to the credits. My brain caught up with my eyes, and with a "whut?" I turned again to the news. That was it for the day. I couldn't get my dad on the phone; he keeps it off the hook before 10am. I couldn't get my mom on. I called my mother in law out in Yuma, and woke her up to tell her.
Then the second tower was hit, and then the Pentagon. I really thought that the world was going to end, that this was it, the collapse was coming. I felt like I was floating in the air, and I was so astonished that I didn't have room for an emotional reaction. The first sensation was amazement that this could actually be happening.
But it was happening on TV, you know? Detachment.
My husband called in from work; there were about 20 volunteer firemen and EMT and other volunteer types at his company, and they were sending everyone else home. I had managed to get a doctor's appointment for noon, and would be driving from Bridgeport to Norwalk, about 20 minutes down the highway. It was during this drive that I saw the weirdest sight of my life.
The sky was blue, the clear air was filled with birds, the fall trees were just getting warmed up for the big show in October. I-95 was completely empty in both directions for miles at a stretch, and the highway information signs merely said, "NYC ALL ACCESS CLOSED." It was the most apocalyptic moment of my life, and I was completely poleaxed. This didn't stop me from noting still a sense of detachment. You know, like on TV.
Got to the doctor's office, and the weird spell that was holding me broke. Here were people, and all anyone was talking about was war war war. Me too- I was filled with the righteous ire that Pearl Harbor had generated. I was relieved that America's call to arms was for a righteous cause- that of defending our homes. I got my scrip, picked up the meds, and headed back to the house to catch any updates or press conferences or what have you. I don't remember any of that crap.
The next thing I remember is reading in the Daily News was that Afghan-American businesses were being harassed and vandalized by grief-crazed New Yorkers. We felt awful for everyone involved, and decided to go eat at an Afghan restaurant and show support for a business that I knew had been on St Mark's in Manhattan for years and years. We went on 9/23/01, and ate a lunch on the patio, closest to the street.
Some people may never understand why we chose this particular small act of deliberate tolerance and inclusion, but I don't regret doing it at all.
For a while after that I thought that this war was going to be the making of Fratboy MCMonkey, but that turned out to be a disappointment too. The complacency of the prosperous 90's made our sense of urgency to defend the Constitution stunted and slow. As a country, we didn't realize we'd been sold a bill of goods until we were emeshed and it was too late. By then, the war on terrorism had become a country-building exercise in Iraq.
I am voting for Barack Obama because he will refocus our military and diplomatic resources so as to fight the war on terror, not play out think-tank scenarios in Iraq.
I asked my husband the other day if he was worried about McCain's kitchen sink strategy. "Nah," he said. "No-one could possibly elect that heart attack in Ferragamos."
I really don't want him going two for two.