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Wednesday, 03 December 2008

Hope Wins; How We Heard the News in the Reddest Part of a Blue State

By Clair Zarges of The Zees Go West

It was fascinating being stuck in a hospital bed for the election and the ensuing returns. I had gotten myself into some pretty brisk conversations around town over the past few weeks when I'd hear something like, "Oh, I'd vote for that Obama, but I heard on the radio that he's a Muslim."

No matter how I tried to lay out what I saw as the truth, I had the feeling that most of the people I saw on a daily basis would never vote for a black man no matter what other reasons they gave for their choice.

Now that I was hospitalized for my knee replacement I knew that I was in a weak position and that I shouldn't irritate my caregivers with my liberal opinions. But I got right into it in the recovery room when, through my slowly clearing anesthetic haze, I heard one nurse say to another, "...I heard that he's a Muslim and that he won't salute the American flag."

I surprised us all by snapping, "He isn't and he does, too!" They must have figured I'd recovered enough and zipped me right on out of there and down the hall to my bed in the post-surgery wing.

Once installed in my own hospital room (private, airless, noisy, stinky, never a chance for ten minutes of uninterrupted sleep in three nights), I cautiously approached the subject of the election whenever my nurses would bring it up. I've learned the caution because this is such a "red" place and my mother taught me to be nice to everyone.

Let me say right here that my nurses were wonderful and caring and I loved them all, politics aside. But many of them were very fearful of the possibility of an Obama presidency, believing that he represented some foreign influence and that he would nationalize medicine and pay them minimum wage. Or that, God forbid, he'd take their guns away or recognize gay rights.

Not many of them liked Sarah Palin, but they liked the idea of domestic drilling in the nearby Texas and New Mexico oil fields. They honestly liked that "drill, baby, drill" business and thought it a catchy thing to chant.

However, invisible signals were passed and those few of us who were Obama supporters were soon known to each other: a young woman (I'll call her Josette) here from France with her military husband who was aware of how America has lost its reputation among the countries of the world over the past eight years; the African-American student nurse assigned to me who was feeling politically isolated here in "West Texas" (I'll call her Emily); and me, a white, knee patient in late middle age (I prefer to call it that) who has somehow been lucky enough to be surrounded by liberal and thoughtful people all my life.

When the election results were called and America found that, miracle of miracles, we had a new President-Elect called Obama, I pressed the nurse's call button, hoping to see a blue nurse so that I could share the incredible news. Alas, they sent me an angry looking Texas girl. I was sobbing so hard by that time, watching Jesse Jackson's tear-streaked face in the celebrating Grant Park crowd, that she got frightened and ran off to find Emily.

Emily came running, fearful that I had somehow hurt myself or was in some other sort of medical trouble when she heard that her patient was having a fit of wild hysteria.

I managed to get Emily to close the door, pointed at the TV and sobbed "He won!" When she understood what I was talking about, I handed her the box of Kleenex and we cried for joy together.

Josette eventually found her way to us and we all rejoiced, doing triumphant fist jabs, weeping, and feeling great hope on our tiny blue island in the middle of an angry red sea.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Clair - Great story! I'll never forget watching Jesse Jackson's reaction either.

I'm an independent, and I'm not sure what color that is! (Red plus blue becomes purple!) Anyway, I voted for McCain because I felt he was more experienced.

However, I am impressed with the cabinet that President (elect) Obama is putting together. The conservative/moderate side of me is quite pleased. Therefore, the core of his supporters probably are not!

Hi Clair,
I cried right along with you as I read this story. I can really relate, both to your joy and to your feelings of being blue in a sea of red. I now live in a liberal pocket of "red" Southern Oregon (transplanted from Texas many years ago) but taught school in a consersative community for many years. I think you would enjoy seeing my SoulCollage card made to honor President Elect Obama found on my blog at


I have always been proud to be an American even though I can't take any credit for being born so. Then there was that there period after Katrina when I was ashamed to be an American. All of that is now passed, and I am, as always, but even more so, proud to be an American. Thanks, President-Elect Obama!

This is a wonderful story, and I am glad to have lived to see this day! I've made no secret about my disgust with the Bush (alias Big Oil) administration's policies when I talk with friends here in Korea. It was interesting to see how their eyes lit up when Senator Obama won the election. In a land where there is definite prejudice against dark-skinned people, the Koreans I spoke with were full of optimism. They are impressed with his intelligence and devotion to his family. I think there is real hope for peace with honor, for I believe he is an honorable man.

I loved reading your story. I volunteered for Obama and hit the phones as well as went door to door. I read major newspapers around the country as well as both candidates platforms so I would be educated as to what to tell people as I went door to door & on the phones. The replies I heard as to why people were for McCain reflected reasons that were so far out from reality, it was unreal. I would suffice to say that lots of people just didn't were not aware of the damage done by the years that Bush was in & of course, now all of that damage has come to fruition for our new, totally educated, totally adult president to have to grapple with. I digress, just loved your story.

Hi Clair!

I found the post...and, as you suggested, i loved it! What a treat to have the opportunity to not only HEAR your version of the story during our "meeting on the train"...but to also READ the beautifully written version as well!!!

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