Needing Freedom From Freedom: Recoving From a Democratic Election Season in Overdrive
When the results of the election were broadcast late Tuesday night, and finally, finally, Obama had summited the required 270-delegate-high mountain, the first feeling that swept over me was not elation or defeat, but rather pure and sweet relief. A weight off the shoulders. To be honest, I didn’t even care to see Romney’s concession speech or hear Obama accept re-election. I just wanted to crawl into bed and let myself be swept away from November 6, 2012, as swiftly and and comfortably as possible.
It is a sign of ultimate privilege for me to be able to say that I am tired of democracy. I am tired of campaigning, tired of rhetoric, tired of news, tired of voting. In the past few weeks, a feeling of malaise had settled over me; with each mention of the candidates or the issues, my innards writhed and my head throbbed dully. Millions around the world live and die in a struggle for the freedoms we possess so thoughtlessly here in the U.S.. Though I feel slightly guilty that I dislike our political process, (which other countries would literally kill to have,) so much. The fact that a first-time voter is already so jaded might be a sign that we’re mistreating Lady Liberty.
Did we really need what seemed like two years of campaigning to pick our president? Were the nearly $6 billion invested in this election money well spent? Couldn’t all the energy that was devoted to the campaigns have gone to medical research, educational programs, or even simply buying a few meals for the starving? Was it worth it?
I don’t even want to start thinking about these what-ifs. It’s too depressing, and honestly, it requires energy I don’t have. After months upon months of politics, I have been sapped of enthusiasm for the candidates, sapped of optimism for the system, and sapped of everything that makes democracy exciting, empowering, and the best form of government. Government by the people, for the people— so why does it feel like it comes at too high a cost? Like the little girl in the horrifyingly relatable YouTube video who cries out of exhaustion, “I’m tired of Bronco Bamma and Mitt Romney!”
Give me a few years, America. Let me recuperate a while, and then teach me that you can work again. I’ll be back, returning like everyone else to worship at the media’s altar of electoral excess. Next time, though, I might be less naïve. Jonathan Franzen wrote in his best-selling novel of 2010 Freedom that, “The personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage.” My dreams of political excitement and activism were buried in the campaigns’ mudslide. My appreciation for our freedoms was beaten to a throbbing bruise, leaving me bitterly, quietly wearied of choice and choosing.
For now, I’ll lay in my bed, nursing my wounds. I am at peace. The election is won, 303-206. Swelling relief reminds me: there is a world outside of the vote. That night I went to sleep smiling like a baby. I don’t have to think about it anymore. I don’t have to hear about it anymore. No more. No more, thank God. I am free.
This piece was originally published in the Nassau Weekly.