Four years ago, I went down to Florida to knock on doors. I volunteered for both the McCain campaign and the Obama campaign. I just wanted to experience an election—a moment of history thatI knew people would be talking about fifty years later. I ended up in all four corners of the United States that year. I learned that there are two versions of America. It’s not the cherry picked CNN version you tell your grandkids about four or fifty years later.
I. Little Havana, Miami
“I spent my evening watching the coverage and knitting a pair of socks. I’m going to tell the person to whom I give the socks that they aren’t just any socks; they are historic socks. And also 10% cashmere.”
posted by orange swan at 9:07 PM on November 4
It’s midnight. He is talking.
We’re squeezed into a red Toyota. Either a Corolla or a Camry. Bodies are twisted up out of sunroofs and rear windows, tiptoe on benches and fire hydrants. You don’t see their faces. Just limbs that flail with hand-painted signs about the fate of the world. VOTE.
One says PLEASE. Not McCain or Obama, not God hates fags, not save the whales or lower taxes. Just PLEASE. The woman holding it does not flail. She’s on her knees in front of the curb, head jacked up to the heavens, eyes closed. I remember a coldness creeping into the humid air. Then horns, bells, screams, whistles, curses, chants, weeping. The passage of time, which had accelerated with such certainty for 52 weeks, towards this single day that had itself unfolded simultaneously in past and present tense—all of it finally just snaps. The red Toyota pulls up. The guy inside screams, “let’s go!” Five strangers push in. A gay lawyer from California. A black engineering student from down the street. A middle-aged woman from Peru who only knows Spanish. A steely-eyed man, who I think is her son. And a Canadian who just wanted to be close to it.
The woman wears a stained janitorial uniform. I wish I could remember, right now, the logo on her breast pocket—what make the Toyota was—as we drifted through Little Havana in slow motion, and you could just barely hear him talking on the car radio.
I remember the air conditioning. I remember an old Cuban man in a McCain t-shirt slinging a rock across Calle Ocho at a young Cuban man in an Obama t-shirt. I remember continuing to shiver. I remember the student burying his head in his hands. “I don’t have words,” he said, voice cracking, then falling apart completely. Everyone, all night long: there are no words. I remember the driver turning off the air conditioning. I remember my pocket vibrating again and and again and again with text messages. And it only occurred to me as I began writing a long letter about it in a motel room looking out at a complicated US1 interchange, that we kept shivering in that humid South Florida night because every human being around us was in physical shock. Continue reading