November 08, 2006

The thrill of victory...

After close to 30 years of voting, I don't think it's too much to ask that my team wins -- this marks the second time since 1978. I remember where I was the first time Clinton was elected: at a writer's colony in Massachusetts, about a half hour out of Northampton. We had no TV; everyone and her sister did not yet have anything close to a Web page; we could follow the results on the radio, but even then, the reception was spotty.

So I drove into town to celebrate with my fellow Democrats, at the only election party I have ever attended. Didn't matter that I didn't know anyone there: the important thing was, finally, I voted for a winner. (Mayoral elections in Wonderland have always left me feeling that the two evils were equal, and hence, I have abstained.)

This year, however, I should be happy. I was, too, for about 20 minutes.

Unfortunately I have reached the age where I know some of the lunatics who are running the asylum, and one of them, who couldn't get elected to student council at my prep school, is now my state's governor-elect. The one good thing to come of that is that he, like Wonderland's current mayor, can't be bought by special interests. Each of them has too much money of his own to care.

This brings up a couple of questions: are politicians all like Sally Field? Do they really, really, really want you to like them, to recover from previous slights in the popularity polls? The other question is: do you have to be not merely well-off, but out-and-out rich to win an election?

The current price of a year's tuition at my prep school: $29,100 per student, per year, in after-tax dollars. I think it safe to say that my governor-elect's three children are not attending that institution courtesy of my tax dollars. However, I noticed no comments were made about improving the public schools during the election campaign.

I can't help wondering if that is because the governor-elect and his offspring have experienced our state's public school system only when riding by any such institution in a chauffeur-driven vehicle. I spent kindergarten through tenth grade in a suburban public school system. Apart from my being miserable in public school(and how much of that was due to adolescence and would have been true anywhere?), was the education noticeably that much better at my prep school?

I lived in a town whose housing options ranged from Section 8 Federally subsidized apartments to mansions down the street from horseback riding stables. I knew first-hand about socioeconomic differences; the children of various strata were in all of my classes while there was scarcely more than a single strata in my homogeneous prep school, and that one started at upper-middle class, skyrocketing upward from there.

Perhaps I would welcome this year's election victory more gracefully if I hadn't grown up to be so cynical. But my training started in that same public school system: when I was age 8, I read in My Weekly Reader that Richard Nixon was a Quaker, and I knew Quakers didn't believe in war. Yet there Nixon was, ready and waiting to bomb Cambodia. Cognitive dissonance had its first ruling, and now I feel it no matter which party label is in office.