Safe House

Barbara Carrellas told me that tonight, this night that Obama won, her next door neighbor put a candle on their doorstep & a white handkerchief on the doorknob: the sign of a safe house during the time of the Underground Railroad.

For years I have had my key in our front door and made a point of not turning my head over my right shoulder so that I would not see the big gaping lack in the sky where the towers stood.

I’ve felt for the past 8 years like that crazy chracter Whoopi Goldberg played on Star Trek, in that one episode where she knew the ship wasn’t supposed to be at war, and that children were supposed to be on board, but weren’t. She kept telling everyone they were in the wrong reality.

We’ve been in the wrong reality for 8 years at least. There is a part of me that wants to go back to that time of outpouring of sympathy from the world we received and just apologize already for having shit on their sympathy with aggression & “the Bush doctrine” of Orwellian, preventative war. I want still for the US to say to the rest of the world that we’re sorry for our bad manners; we were traumatized and stupid and scared and that we’re very, very sorry for not having taken their shows of empathy with grace and thanks.

& Then I think of that candle on Barbara’s stoop and that white handkerchief on her doorknob and I think of how far we have gone back, what deep wounds we might heal now, and I am awed at the idea of it.

To the rest of the world: the difficult but lovable child full of promise that the US used to be is back. We’re still a big precocious brat in some ways, but full of love and honor and bravery in others: a 19 year old to your more mature years, still a little impetuous and wet behind the ears but hopeful and not entirely stupid. I feel like we’ve finally gotten to that moment full of tears and anger where we admit how much we were hurt and how much hurting we did and try, still a little clumsily, to try a little harder.

(this post is dedicated to Anne Wendy, whose British liberalism has been a bright, bright beacon.)

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