November 04, 2008


It is a strange thing to be far from home on Election Day.
It is a strange thing not to get a sticker, or a sticker and a cookie, not to be "all braggy," or a little flag pin to stick in your lapel, or just the feeling of *dusts hands* "Done!" when you come in from putting the flag up on the mailbox.

It is so weird not to be in the United States today.

Not that I obsessively watch election coverage, even during presidential elections. Generally it annoys the heck out of me, and this election coverage feels like it's been going on since 1968. We've all gotten sick to death of spin doctors and pundits, but it feels so strange to be in a country where it's mostly business as usual, and there are no flags.

I have work to do; edits to complete and a wedding to plan (on paper, anyway) in the next three weeks. I'm really hoping to FINISH. THIS. NOVEL. BEFORE. CHRISTMAS. But man, am I distracted today. And a little verklempt. Which is a surprise.

I'm neither particularly patriotic nor sentimental, but a friend of ours in Ireland posted an open letter to America on his blog this morning, and he closed it with words that made me catch my breath.

President Roosevelt wrote out these same words for Winston Churchhill, saying that the verse "applies to you people as it does to us."

(I borrowed this from Bartleby. You may read all 397 lines quietly to yourself here.)

785. The Building of the Ship
 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O UNION, strong and great!

Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!        380
We know what Master laid thy keel,
What Workmen wrought thy ribs of steel,
Who made each mast, and sail, and rope,
What anvils rang, what hammers beat,
In what a forge and what a heat        385

Were shaped the anchors of thy hope!
Fear not each sudden sound and shock,
’Tis of the wave and not the rock;
’Tis but the flapping of the sail,
And not a rent made by the gale!        390
In spite of rock and tempest’s roar,
In spite of false lights on the shore,
Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea!

Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee,
Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,        395
Our faith triumphant o’er our fears,
Are all with thee,—are all with thee!

...Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!

Such a huge responsibility. And is it really ours?

O, Ship of state. You probably have barnacles, and your paint is worn, and some of your sailors are trying to throw things -- and people -- overboard for their own reasons. But, you're our ship, and I miss being part of the team swabbing the decks today.

Happy Election Day. The Vote is still being blogged, and people, it is 71 posts strong.
Go. Read.


Anonymous said...

They also had doughnuts this year, but I stuck with the cookie, as it was the known quantity. I would have shared, but the flight was a bit of a deterrent, what with the way I have to be on the reference desk this afternoon and everything.

Jules at 7-Imp said...

What a lovely post. Wish you could be here.

7-Imp (hey, my word verification has "imp" in it!)

Anonymous said...

Oh, this is making me tear up. I thought about you... and my aunt in London... and Kristi in Brazil... and our friends in Africa... and all the good folk elsewhere, mailing in their ballots and making a difference even without getting a sticker. Thanks for the great post...