I went to hear Rebecca Solnit speak at Bowdoin last night. She talked about a collective sensation of altruism, joy, and community that can come in the wake of natural (and sometimes manmade) disasters. She connected those experiences to the outpouring of public emotion that happened on and around Election Day last year, when Barack Obama was elected president, and the people who put him there -- who worked together to achieve victory not just for a man but for a movement --were moved not just by their electoral success but by their sense of civic engagement. Solnit believes that our lives have become too wrapped up in the personal, the private, and that we need more moments like these -- times when the community is forced to come together, with purpose -- to feel whole again.
I couldn't help but think, as she spoke, of today's big election. There's certainly a feeling in Portland today of togethernes; I'd wager that people who have been phone-banking, canvassing, and speaking to friends and family about gay marriage over the last few weeks do feel fulfilled, engaged, and happier for working toward a common goal. Solnit suggested that we need to find a language for this particular type of pleasure. I agree, and I hope that talking about it more would make it easier to sustain, even after big elections, even after a disaster has subsided. No matter what happens today, for example, I'd hope that gay marriage advocates, gay and straight, will continue to use this momentum, to keep open the forum of ideas that's been developing over the past year.
But most of all, I hope people get out and vote. Because all the altruism and solidarity in the world wouldn't change the facts of the manmade civil-rights disaster of Yes on One prevailing.