by Nelia Dingcong Bernabe
November 16, 2012
The silence is deafening. There’s nary a peep, a twitch, nor a sigh. Nothing. Instead I hear silence, deafening silence that runs through the core of my body like a dagger to my chest.
Why so quiet, peeps? In the voice of my African American friend Mich (she’s really real), “Where you at? Where you at, fool?”
Call it whatever you like. Go ahead. If the shoe were in the other foot, any normal human being would do the same thing. You would do the same thing! It was a battle fought fair and square and I earned my stripes if not for anything else, but for staying up all night through early morning to hear the man speak. Well, both men. Except one took forever to take to the podium.
Weeks later, the dust has settled. Really settled. America has spoken and we, the people, spoke in that resounding voice that was heard all over the world: Four more years! Four more years!
Silly, what were you thinking? No baked bread and apple pie “speak” here! Be warned. I’m beating my chest like King Kong and my bias is as good as the other guy. From this point on, welcome to blue country, baby, it’s the one time that I get to turn my swagger on!
Let’s go back to that day. I stayed up past 1 a.m. to watch the president get re-elected and listen to him put into words a victory that was fought hard and in earnest. But before I thrust the dagger any deeper and continue my happy dance, let me backtrack.
I was a nervous wreck in the days leading up to the election. I hopped, skipped, and jumped over news nuggets that showed the other guy – yes, the one with the permanent smirk – leading. Occasionally I managed to eavesdrop and made sure I covered my ears every time I heard he was gaining traction especially after the first debate.
It was b-r-u-t-a-l, to say the least. No, I just don’t mean our guy’s performance (or lack of!). It was brutal to hear about the other guy’s momentum after that first debate. Worst, his supporters thought, key word: thought, he won the election the next day. And some of the media heavyweights…talk about jumping on the bandwagon!
But hindsight is always 20-20.
I should have known and never cast any doubt. Behind the stats and the hype, I forgot about “The Mustache” orchestrating our man’s well-oiled and well-greased political machine. I should have trusted him from the get-go. He’s the guy who wagered his mustache this past election and told the ABC news power team of Diane and George, “He is not going to lose and I can guarantee you I’ll still have my mustache next week.”
Look, I’ll happily pass on my “I Voted” sticker that’s in mint condition if you guess who. It’s David Axelrod. The man is a genius and I should have watched the movement of his mustache instead for clues of the outcome of this election. I could’ve saved myself some serious agony!
Before the election, my News Feed on Facebook lit up with political posts like fireworks on July 4. There was no stopping the people who went on a thumbs upping and “liking” frenzy, and people who reposted links with one-liners lifted from wherever were on a roll. There were friends who fed me some impassioned postings who, without even trying, offered explanations as to why I should vote one way and not the other. Then there were those who chose to attack and leave their cruel crumbs on the pages they visited.
Although the political landscape has moved beyond the stark differences of conservatism vs. progressive and social liberalism from decades ago, I did my share. I did my homework. I did my research. I asked questions. I went through my list of dos and don’ts before choosing a political party/candidate. In short, I invested time in educating myself as a voter.
As a walking trifecta of today’s political guinea pig – a woman, a minority, and an immigrant, I represent the breed of voters in this past election that made a huge difference for the president’s re-election. But in reality, the face of America today and tomorrow might be unnerving for a lot of people. The inevitable shift is a hard pill to swallow for a lot of people.
America is changing rapidly and drastically, with its contours and nuances taking the shape of diversity in blown-out proportions and yes, with the re-election of an African American president, one asks: how can some people (still) stay in the Dark Ages and maintain such obvious prejudice?
So when under-the-breath comments (overheard from our people) like the color of the president’s skin reared its ugly head again, I wonder. I wonder not because of the apparent ignorance of the “commenter” but because of the person’s choice of supporting a candidate whose platform on one issue in particular could abruptly change the course of his/her life.
So when callous and insensitive comments like the stereotypical generalization that certain groups have a penchant for leeching themselves off the welfare system forever instead of ridding themselves of the shackles, I wonder. I wonder not because of the blatant lack of compassion and kindness but because of the person’s sense of entitlement. Just because she holds a nice job and thinks her life is so much better than Joe Schmo from the Hood, she’s licensed to belittle him.
As immigrants, our welcome mat to this country included established social malaise that existed long before we called this land home. As “guests” first and transplants later, it is quite rude to freely hand down judgment on the people who were here before us and who were born here. The cliché, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you” comes to mind and that includes America’s people who are down on their luck. Issuing an all-encompassing statement of laziness and indolence is rather harsh especially after some of these so-called “lazy” people have been entrapped in this predicament for generations not by their own choice.
I’m not making excuses for these people because I know some of them do suck the system dry. But putting everyone in one vat is just wrong. It’s one thing to slap a label and leave it there but to not do anything? From afar and under the guise of anonymity, it’s definitely easier to cast stones but becoming part of a solution takes work and commitment. And that’s really too much, right? Belittling them is easier!
The recent election, like all elections, highlighted the imperfections of both political parties. It’s not a one-size-fits-all choice. One makes allowances and adjustments based on personal convictions, one’s faith and cultural mores, and what feels right. The rest as they say is gravy.
I wish it were that easy. Or as cut and dried as choosing a political candidate based on the color of his skin, or if it were a football game, and a coin toss seals the deal, or as easy as deciding who wears the overly tight pants better (I’m still talking football!). At the end of the day, it was what felt right. For me, at least.
For now the deafening silence continues. It will be this way for another four years. Let’s keep it that way!