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By Kelly Jean Cogswell
I used to go to vote in a grade school where the hallways were all brightly colored, and the water fountains all cute and midget-sized. This time of year they’d paste up those Thanksgiving turkeys you make by drawing your hand. Seeing that at the door leant a veneer of hope to the whole project of democracy.
But they kicked us voters out a couple years ago, probably afraid we’re all pedophiles, and that sooner or later we’d run amuck and create lawsuits.
The new place is stuck in the ground floor of this enormous low-income housing project where retirees hang out in a shabby pigeon filled park in good weather, and huddle inside when it’s cold. To vote, I had to run the gauntlet of canes and walkers. The grey hallway smelled of bleach and piss. The inmates I saw under the flickering fluorescent light only had a half dozen teeth between them, arranged like a kind of sideshow, momento mori, or exemplar of social policy’s endgame.
Maybe we were supposed to run out and demand Medicare reform, and services for the aging, make a fat donation to the Association of American Retirees, or like all ye who enter here, just Abandon Hope.
The older lady that usually guards the rolls is one of them. She can’t hear, and you have to shout your address three or four times. She sometimes argues, bellowing “You don’t live on First Street,” until one of the young ones comes along and grabs the voting rolls out her hands.
During the primaries, even the middle-aged woman couldn’t find me. They looked on all the rolls in all the nearby districts, but I’d been bumped off completely, and I had to fill out a paper ballot which they probably wiped their asses with.
I got the idea I wasn’t wanted. Even though the Democrats won this time, swept completely, I think they’d prefer to get along without me.
I can hear you out there, saying, for Pete’s sake, the Democrats retook the House with glorious excess and even got their props in the Senate. Down with the devil Bush. Quit your beefing.
God, how I’d like to.
I stayed up half election night watching the yellow squares turn blue in the New York Times interactive map, but even when it was clear we had the House I never felt relief, much less anything like elation. I was numb when Allen conceded in Virginia giving us the Senate, too.
Part of it was the winning message. “Vote for us. We’re not Republicans.” In New Jersey, the anti-Kean ads in the Senate race showed the fresh-faced Republican challenger with burning images of Iraq, and of course, his best buddy George. That was enough to undo him, even though Democrat Menendez faces charges of corruption. What’s a little pork for the blue states, when the red have been getting the whole hog?
The real problem is that the whole election seems to mean nothing beyond a condemnation of Bush’s losing tactics in Iraq and a general repugnance for Republican corruption. The newsflash is, most of us queers are still considered under that heading. Can you say Foley, Foley, Foley?
He was the last straw. Not Iraq. Or Halliburton. Not how our Constitution is lying in shreds at the bottom of some Washington birdcage. But that some middle-aged guy made passes at some young Congressional pages. That they were all male broke the elephant’s back.
Screw the Republicans and Democrats both. It was queers that got their asses kicked at the polls. Anti-gay marriage amendments passed in seven out of the eight states at issue even when the Democrats won. That brings the total up to what? Twenty-seven? Now marriage between us is now expressly forbidden in more than half the country.
Should I bust open the champagne for that? Or faint promises from Mr. Spitzer?
If Arizona backed away from an anti-gay amendment along with a couple of incredibly vicious anti-immigrant candidates it’s less because they’ve suddenly opened their hearts to diversity, than because the racist politicians were so excessive in their zeal they conjured images of little pointed white caps and cross-burnings.
Moderation for Americans in all things, including bigotry. Ban gay marriage, but don’t beat the crap out of the faggots. Put up walls at our borders, but don’t actually mount machine guns on top of them.
Equality’s a nice idea, and Americans are nice above all, but no need to over do it.
Even Mr. Foley was forgiven, somewhat, when he announced he’d been abused by a priest. That made his being “gay” okay. Not like us unapologetically, no excuse, “out and proud” Americans. We’re still hung out to dry. And my neighbors, vote how they want, still hate me.
Frankly, it’s too early for hope.