The worst place to be before an election

10.25.04

Washington, DC, ten days before one of the most hotly-contested presidential elections in decades, is not a pretty sight. In fact, it’s downright scary.

Everywhere I turned were political messages. The restaurants, the coffee shops… it was just inescapable. While walking down the street, the same woman asked me three times if I wanted to “help elect John Kerry”. Each time I smiled at her and said, “sorry, I’m Canadian”. By the third time I just said “still Canadian” and kept walking. She didn’t miss a beat.

Being Canadian in Washington ten days before the election is kind of like being the only sober person in a room full of drunks. By being a step or two outside the action, you can afford a sense of perspective that most people don’t have. Maybe that’s why it’s so obvious to me how bad things truly are.

The truly frightening thing to see is how people are confusing political opinion with personality. These days, you don’t just “vote” Republican or Democrat, you are a Republican or a Democrat – in a much more literal sense than ever before. People assume that if you’re on the opposing side, you’re lower than pond scum, definitely not worth speaking to or even the time of day. Everyone assumes the people they’re speaking to are on “their” side, and that their favourite pastime is to bash the other side. It frustrates them to no end when you choose not to play along.

I can’t help but wonder what will happen the day after the election. I’ve never seen people so divided. But somebody’s going to be elected, and the half of the people who didn’t vote for him will be very disappointed. Will the country be able to reunite and get over this election and move on? I wonder how long the wounds will take to heal.

A message to my American friends, if you’re reading: I realize that, despite the impact that this election may have on us as your neighbours and on the rest of the world, it’s really your election and your decision. I don’t think we have any business butting in. I realize passions are running high and you probably think that catastrophe will strike if your side loses. But please, please don’t lose sight of what’s important. Whether Bush wins, or Kerry wins, life will go on.

I’m just glad to be back home, where I can watch the rest of this boxing match from the sidelines.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Stacy 10.25.04 at 2:48 PM

Trust me – not all of us Americans are frothing at the mouth about this election. Even here in the D.C. area.

But yeah, more often than not, it is lonely to be sane and reasonable these days.

I do worry, though. Not about the vcictor. Because I don’t support either of the two major candidates, I find it hard to believe that one of them winning will be some sort of mega event. Please. Politicians are all just politicians.

What I worry about is the vitrol from the losing side. Tensions are so high and rhetroic is so thick. If it just stays words and silly protests, fine. But I don’t trust the kind of people who have turned into raving lunatics for their candidates to just go back to their boring lives after November 2nd.

I’ve got a bad feeling about this election. But it’s got nothing to do with the candidates, or the actual outcome. I hope I’m wrong! After all, we all just went back to reality after the hotly contested 2000 election, right? But nobody was calling for assassinations in the mainstream press, then, either. We’ll see.

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2 Jonny 10.25.04 at 3:58 PM

Isn’t Washington DC a democratic stronghold?

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3 Otter 10.27.04 at 8:45 PM

People in DC are obsessed with politics. It’s part of the local culture, like the entertainment industry is in Los Angeles.

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