The Audacity to Cope: Surviving an Election Panic Attack

Every black person I met in Grand Park wanted to hug me, or high-five me or congratulate me, as though I had done something special. I suppose being an oppressed minority that isn’t in prison due to systemic prejudice is a worthy accomplishment, but I...

I will readily admit that I made all the necessary preparations. I hoarded canned goods. I built an adequate shelter. I BitTorrented a bunch of Smiths albums. I prepared for the worst. It wasn’t a natural disaster I prepared for, but a man-made disaster called Hurricane Romney.

Like many other pessimistic young liberals, I girded myself for a potential Mitt Romney victory last night. The first debate bounce for the Republican nominee instilled in me a sense of dread I haven’t felt since I saw the trailer for the last Transformers movie. Up until polls opened, the vast majority of pundits were proclaiming that this would be a long and bitter evening that might carry over into legal challenges the following day. The worst possible scenario was not that far from becoming reality.

I’ve always felt the best place to be during a disaster is indoors, preferably alone and surrounded by alcohol or pornography, mankind’s most reliable coping mechanisms. My favorite position during an earthquake is naked, shivering in a ball like a hedgehog and covered in Taco Bell wrappers. The Taco Bell wrappers come in handy because if I get hungry, I can lick the residual burrito residue long after all Taco Bells have been destroyed.

For reasons I cannot fully comprehend, I chose to forge a new path and attempted to weather the impending storm amongst other sentient lifeforms. I took to Los Angeles’s new Grand Park in Downtown to share my misery with equally depressed young people. Fortunately, there was a beer garden, which meant that my sadness would be ameliorated as long as I had enough cash to keep from thinking.

What doesn’t cross your mind when you are making plans for disaster is what you will do when the storm doesn’t arrive. It’s a bit like renting a shitty romantic comedy on Netflix and ordering Domino’s, then getting a message on OKCupid. The purpose of your action is rendered irrelevant, but you still kind of want to eat that whole pizza anyway.

When CNN declared Obama the winner and the throngs of inebriated yuppies started cheering, my mood turned melancholy. I had prepped myself for nothing. My terror was unfounded. I didn’t need to seek comfort. Barack Obama is still President of the United States.

Every black person I met in Grand Park wanted to hug me, or high-five me or congratulate me, as though I had done something special. I suppose being an oppressed minority that isn’t in prison due to systemic prejudice is a worthy accomplishment, but I can’t begin to take any credit for the victory of Barack Obama. Believe me, I wish I could. It would do wonders for my fragile ego. “Hey, Betsy, did you know that I single-handedly got Obama reelected? Yeah, it was my idea to run those summer attack ads in Ohio. Also, I pick out alwl of Michelle’s outfits to make her butt look bigger.”

The Obama victory was the work of thousands of volunteers. Also, they got a hand from some very wealthy donors. No one at the park took the time to extend their gratitude to the patron saints of our system, so please allow me to pass our collective appreciation on to the people who really run this country. Kudos to George Soros for cutting all of those checks. I bet he’s got some serious hand cramps right now. Thanks, Ron Burkle, for advancing the cause of democracy with your vast fortune. If I had your money, I’d probably just waste it on novelty sunglasses and soda pop.

Despite the glaring lack of respect for our financial overlords, I eventually found some serenity in the scene at Grand Park. I may have felt a twinge of ennui at the thought of not having anything to be upset about, but there is liberation in any communal expression of emotion, even if that emotion is as foreign to me as sincere joy. It was kind of like the Occupy protests, but with food trucks. We can all agree that the one thing that was missing from the Occupy camps was novelty mobile soul food restaurants with patronizing pictures of black families embracing plastered everywhere.

This event wasn’t about antagonism, anger, frustration, intellect, logic or rational thought of any kind. Like many other election night gatherings, it was about how to find the nearest port-a-potty. After my fifth eight-dollar beer, there was no more important issue on my personal “second term agenda.”

Sometimes, folks just want to feel something, good or bad. My fellow attendees were compelled to experience this historic moment with their community and feel united after years of bitter political warfare. I was more interested in feeling the nearby cardboard cutouts of Obama and Romney, and I did. It was better than I ever could have imagined. It was so close to the real thing that I could smell Romney’s Brylcreem.

A little less than half of the nation went to sleep dissatisfied with the results last night. To those hatemongering hillbillies, I extend my deepest sympathies. I suppose your only remaining option is to finally finish that time machine that will take you back to 1847. The other, slightly bigger half of the nation represented by the rabble in Grand Park acted like there was nothing left to do but party until the cops sent them home. That’s a really comforting fantasy, but it remains nothing more than a fantasy.

We’ll all be back here in four years. The same problems will persist. Jobs will be hard to come by. Nations will seek to harm America. Global warming will cause further destruction across the country. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo will return for a second season. No one election can make sense of these quandaries.

I tried very hard to force myself to believe that this was the end of something, but the bedraggled, forgotten citizens that live inside the 2nd Street tunnel in Los Angeles that I walked past on my way home reminded me that this is not an end. It’s not even a beginning. It’s just another day where someone goes hungry or doesn’t have a place to sleep.

Our politicians spend a great deal of energy asking votes to “believe” and “hope,” but after my Romney-induced fear turned into relief last night, it finally just petered out into resignation. I stripped down naked and went back into the fetal position. The storm might not have come through last night, but it will soon enough. Just don’t come crying to me if you don’t know where to find “7 Layer Burrito” wrappers at 3 AM when it arrives. Like most Americans, I hate sharing.


Photos by Nate Miller.