The Displaced Nation’s coverage of the 2012 U.S. elections would hardly be complete without a post by our accidental repatriate, Sezin Koehler — who, to add yet another whammy to her many counter culture shocks, had to cast her vote in the District of the Hanging Chads. Please note: Although Sezin always gets our vote, her opinions are her own, not necessarily those of the Displaced Nation.
The last time I voted in the United States was the disastrous 2000 election in which George W. Bush effectively stole the race from Al Gore, all on account of “hanging chads” and allegations of voter fraud in Florida.
That election was actually the first time I ever voted, and the polling station was even in my place of residence for my final year at the Occidental College (in Los Angeles) — at the Women’s Center. I cast my ballot with shaking hands: my dear friend Wendy had been murdered just the week before and I had returned from her funeral in Texas only a few days before the election.
Emotional to the max.
The long — and nightmarish — march to Election Day
My accidental repatriation in December of 2011 brought me right smack dab in the middle of the so-called American election season. I had completely forgotten that, unlike many European and other governments which only allow campaigning for a short period directly before the election (for example, in the Czech Republic it’s a mere six weeks), the USA has no such rules.
And worse, the addition of Super PACs — a new loophole passed in 2010 that allows for an organization to indirectly campaign for the candidate of their choice, spending as much money as they can raise — brought home a frightening new reality for me in the form of the corporatization of our government. The Campaign-Industrial Complex.
Further, I would actually be voting in the same Florida district that was under such great contention in 2000.
Horror mounting, I watched President Obama forced to make his birth certificate public even though his opponents kept their tax records secret. The outright lies about the president being a Muslim, socialist, un-American, and so on swirled around me in the conservative pocket of Florida in which I live. Every other commercial on television was an attack ad, each more vicious than the last. It was becoming clearer and clearer: the problems people here (and Republicans) have with the president comes down to the color of his skin.
Bumper stickers like “Re-Nig 2012” and “Put the WHITE back in the WHITE HOUSE” adorned some of the cars in my neighborhood, so proud were some of the anti-Obamaites of their willful ignorance.
After voting from abroad all these years, it was a complete shock to the system to be confronted daily with the dysfunctional American political system.
I asked myself over and over: How is it possible that I’d ended up here?
From jitters to jubilation
As the presidential debates unfolded it became more and more clear that Romney and Obama represented two distinct visions for the future of this country. Mitt Romney’s a plan to bolster the already wealthy and set women’s rights back to the 1950s. President Obama’s to continue the slow going of getting the country out of the mess his predecessor left behind as well as get the United States in line with the rest of the developed world by providing things like affordable healthcare and protecting the rights of women.
Clearly, a very Divided States of America.
Election Day loomed ever nearer and my anxiety levels were through the roof, stomach in knots, wondering which America its citizens would choose.
When I went to cast my ballot I was shaking so terribly my husband had to hold me up and help me to my voting seat. It only occurred to me afterwards that my body remembered the trauma of 12 years ago, right down to a terrifying election.
After leaving the polling station, my husband and I wandered around in a daze. Waiting for results felt like years passing by. Every bit of news a cause for momentary relief or stark panic. As the first reports — from Fox News no less! — said Obama had been re-elected, we were still too scared to get excited. It wasn’t until Mitt Romney finished his acceptance of defeat speech that I stood up and cheered.
We had won.
I’ve never in my left felt such a feeling of sweet relief. I hadn’t given America enough credit. There are more than enough Americans like me, concerned about healthcare, women’s rights, human rights, to balance out the conservatives! Hallelujah!
However, that didn’t stop the losing party taking to social media and proving what we’ve known for ages: their biggest problem with the president is that he’s African-American. I predict it’s the beginning of the end for the Republican and Tea Parties.
Gee…am I no longer displaced?!
Though it took five days for us to get the Florida results! WTF?! Seriously, developing countries get election results quicker than that! And President Obama even won here, in spite of Governor Rick Scott’s illegal attempts to disenfranchise black and Hispanic voters by sending out mailers with the wrong election date, purging voter rolls, and making it generally difficult for Obama-supporting areas to vote.
Amazing. I moved to a Republican state and even with all their tampering, it is now Democrat. I feel instantly better about where I live. Just like that.
In these seven days since the Obama victory I’ve lost five+ pounds without doing anything, the weight of incredible stress that’s simply melted off. I’ve been sleeping better than I have in years. My husband tells me I’m even snoring, something I’ve only done when with cold!
So, after a miserable first year in Florida coupled with an absurdly harrowing “election season,” I finally feel there is reason to hope in this country’s future and my own place within these red and blue borders.
Sezin Koehler, author of American Monsters, is a woman either on the verge of a breakdown or breakthrough writing from Lighthouse Point, Florida. Culture shock aside, she’s working on four follow-up novels to her first, progress of which you can follow on her Pinterest boards. Her other online haunts are Zuzu’s Petals‘, Twitter, and Facebook — all of which feature eclectic bon mots, rants and raves.
STAY TUNED for Tuesday’s post, announcing this month’s book giveaways.
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Images: From Morguefile, apart from the one of Sezin Koehler, which is her own.