In late August of 2001, I was in a seatbelt-less car hurtling down a pock-marked dirt road lit only by our dim headlights. Sam and I were in the backseat, clinging to each other. I was sobbing.
I don't remember the driver's name. I don't remember anything about him except his smile. He'd picked us up in Narok, and if memory serves, we were heading back to Nairobi.
I don't recall ever having been a believer, but that dark night in Kenya, I crossed my fingers and issued prayer after prayer, begging for safe deliverance. Later, Sam admitted that he too had feared we might not make it home alive. To this day I can remember my terror. It is an uncomfortable feeling, such fear.
Two weeks later, back home in New York, the Twin Towers fell. I was shocked, stunned, unmoored and scared. But that fear I'd met in Kenya? I don't recall feeling that.
Anxiety and I have known each other for a lifetime, but fear is less familiar to me. The older I've grown, the stronger and braver I've gotten. Fear has become quite the stranger.
Late last night, bottom of the 10th inning, two outs, Cubs up by 1. Martinez hits a grounder towards third. Bryant fields it with a golden glove, smiling. He knows if he can get it to Rizzo, the crown is the Cubs'. Bryant to Rizzo, clean as a whistle. Martinez is out. The game is over. 8-7 Cubs.
For so many reasons-thrill, fatigue, surprise, the emotion that is stirred when something has long been desired and is finally obtained-I began to cry. I threw my glasses into the recliner, jumped into the air with unabashed joy, and let the tears dance over my cheeks.
I realized then, that I was also crying for the brief salve the greatest game of the "all-American game" that I have ever seen in my 40 years offered to the festering psychological wound wrought by this year's presidential election. Watching the culmination of teamwork, hard work, good sportsmanship, and grace (Rizzo anyone?) was a balm, not unlike the moment a numbing medicine kicks in.
In this case, what was momentarily numbed was the fear I've felt in recent weeks, a fear that is all too similar to that I felt as we careened down that dark, choppy road fifteen years ago. It's the sort of fear that comes from considering that a time you love is coming to an end and you're not remotely ready for or desirous of that. Life, a functional body politic, those sorts of big-ticket items.
I pride myself on a relative lack of drama and emotionality about things I can't do anything about. I try to approach situations with some rationality and clarity: how might I be able to help or effect change? What are the things I simply can't influence or control?
But I admit to feeling some straight-up panic lately. I have one vote and limited time and money. I've given, monetarily, as much as I can to the Clinton campaign. I am having the talks, urging people to vote, offering to drive. I am sharing factual information. I'm starting to see that facts don't carry the same weight as they once did.
I'm not sure what to make of a society in which large segments choose not to accept fact. Where does one go if 2 + 2 no longer makes 4? If an official birth certificate doesn't prove birth place? If one, three, seven investigations unanimously agree that no criminal action occurred but still more inquiries are demanded?
What happens to a society who ceases to value dignity and honor? To observe mores of decent behavior? Where do we go if evidence of mockery, sexual assault, illegality, and bigotry doesn't lead to punishment and justice served but rather to popularity?
What happens to a country when its meanest elements are unleashed and some cheer? When the KKK endorses the top of the ticket for one of our two main political parties? What happens now? What happens later? How do we explain this to our children?
What happens when some want to turn the clock back for all? What happens to those who have worked, died, for their gains? Are they expected to just hand it all back? Head into the back-alley instead of a safe medical facility? Shuffle back into disenfranchisement?
What happens when the media subordinates its own Hippocratic oath to a vapid desire for clicks and views? When journalists establish a false equivalency between two candidates of vastly disparate experience, knowledge base, and ability? Trump and Clinton aren't apples. It is an epic failure that too many in our media have pitted them as nothing more than varietals.
In 2004, Tom and I were grad students in Boston. I remember so clearly the concern that we and so many of our classmates felt about the possibility of a Bush reelection. That concern seems positively quaint now. I would be grateful for that degree of worry today.