When the news came across the wires that Senator Barack Obama had been elected the 44 The president of the United States I was busy teaching a graduate workshop in nonfiction writing at the University Of Idaho where I had been invited as a kind of smarty pants out of town guest writer. If you know anything about the United States you likely know that Idaho is one of the reddest of the red zones and that only Utah has more Mormon residents. Add Pentecostal groups and John Birchers and various militias and you get the general picture. Rumor has it that my graduate class of ten (most of whom were from somewhere other than Idaho) actually doubled the number of big D or small d Democrats in the state.
I raced back to my hotel along with a troupe of students hoping to get to hear Obama’s victory speech. Oh victors! Have you ever experienced an overdose of shadenfreude? The snug and airless cocktail lounge was filled with sulking and sputtering Republicans, most of them men, all of them pink and large and wearing dark business suits.
Oh victors! How these Munchkins stirred their respective tumblers of Cutty Sark and how they sneered as we tried to turn up the barroom widescreen TV. One of our group challenged them thusly:”We’ve endured 8 years of your leadership you can endure at least 4 years of ours!”
The pink men snickered, went vocal, hissing like snakes. One of them sounded like he had a bolus of crow stuck in his windpipe. They refused to let us hear the speech by hooting and generally carrying on like the contestants on a game show. “I’ll take the gas grill and the Broyhill sofa and I’ll take advertising for fifty!” They babbled and whined in order that those of us who were hoping to hear the most historic acceptance speech in American history would be locked out.
And of course that’s just it. We weren’t locked out at all. We knew ourselves to be part of the most energizing and groundbreaking coalition of voters in U.S. history. We were finally winners after two suspicious national elections.
Oh victors, you can’t overdose on shadenfreude no matter what Aristotle might have said on the subject. Pain in others is one of the elements both of comedy and tragedy but last Tuesday night there in the bar of the Moscow, Idaho Best Western the suffering of the McCain supporters was a clear representation of what it felt like to be out of step with America.
Stephen Kuusisto is the author of Only Bread, Only Light, a collection of poems from Copper Canyon Press, and of the memoirs Planet of the Blind and Eavesdropping. He was a featured poet at Split This Rock in 2008. Visit his blog at www.planet-of-the-blind.com