Poem and Prayer for the Night Before

This is for those who have worked too hard in their lives to see it come to this absurdity. That would be almost everybody.

It’s for those who retreated to the foliage of Vermont after the New Dealer and his era tickered out like a grandfather clock with a lost winding key.

For those who bore and will bear the brunt of the “emancipation of unbridled hatred.”

For those who were duped or coerced into letting that hatred flow through them, and hollow them out.

For people of colour who had to watch the Klan endorse a mainstream candidate.

For election officials, some of whom will be people of colour, who must faithfully count votes for the Klan’s candidate.

For those of less privilege, who absorb all the emotions and history in lieu of burning the country to the ground.

For those who watched the debates and saw a rapist lurk behind a century of feminist resilience and said from the gut I’m with her, but still didn’t feel safe.

For those who watched the debates and projected something slightly different: a battering father wrecking the house, and an enabling mother tidying it up, putting the best face on things.

For all the idealists or frantic depressives leaning towards Jill Stein and getting shamed by the pragmatists. They call you irrational, narcissistic, privileged. They call you a child. They tell you to grow up. They’re acting like your older siblings who somehow figured out how to get over your abusive parents and get on with it, and they’re hating on you as you struggle over whether you’ll come to Thanksgiving.

For the person too paralyzed by the hideous spectacle to want to vote. Never mind Louis C.K. calling you an asshole. He has to blame someone for his depression, and you’re an easy mark.

For the countless women in secret women-only Facebook groups venting lifetimes of misogyny.

For bell hooks and Cornel West, who said you don’t have to compromise with your vote.

For Angela Davis and Noam Chomsky, who said maybe you should.

For everyone alone with their decision.

For the migrant worker sweeping the parking lots after the rallies where he heard them chant those things and has learned enough English to understand enough.

For every boy who watched his daddy put on that red baseball hat and inflate himself with impotent bluster. Who wanted to mimic him to please him. And to validate him, and make him stronger, because he sensed there’s something wrong with daddy.

For all those humiliated, unemployed daddies.

For the older boys ripe for radicalization by gun worship and propaganda from any side.

For the teens on the Lolita Express, trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein with money from both parties.

For all the accusers, silenced by rape culture and fossil fuel.

For queer people, who suffer to transcend the binary.

For parents reading the Lorax at bedtime and knowing it’s all way more fragile than a single cartoon trufula seed.

For the right-now-and-soon-to-be climate refugees who are watching.

For those who point out cravenness on both sides of the aisle and get accused of creating false equivalences. When really, their attunement to despair forces us to imagine better.

For those who felt the pantsuit fad was sweet and inspiring until there was silence on the Standing Rock Sioux.

For those who teared up at FLOTUS’ gorgeous speech, but also heard “going high” and thought of drones floating above faraway dunes.

For those who felt conflicted when they watched the President play with children or ride around in a vintage car with Jerry Seinfeld or drop the mic at the Correspondents’ Dinner. They felt how easily personableness can seem to project care but can also distract us from machinations beyond all personality: new pipeline projects and extra-democratic transnational trade deals.

For Evangelical women who will tell their secret to the ballot box only.

For red staters who don’t think much of psychotherapy and would never be able to afford it anyway.

For rural pastors that provide the only sanctuary against meth labs.

For every parent who had to explain “grope” and “pussy”.

For everyone who had to go through this nightmare while undergoing chemo and hearing people scream about repealing the first bit of health care progress we’ve made.

For all the stiff, wall-building men in armored flesh who cannot and must not disclose the horrible vulnerability that drives their narcissism.

Yes, this prayer is even for Candidate Bigly, with his right shoulder frozen up high as if expecting daddy to suddenly smack his head. Whose mental illness seeks out the fame that increases it. Who cannot remember his childhood because surely it was traumatic. Who may know somewhere that his addiction to power saved him from the fate of his brother, who drank himself to death. Who has no friends and must grab power from women.

And for his wife, who escaped god knows what in her journey through soft-porn-or-worse all the way to her gilded cage.

And for the better Clinton, who deserves a complete and primal revenge, but can’t truly get it until the neoliberalism that created her opponent and funds her is destroyed. But then what would she do?

For all of these and everyone else, everywhere in the world, an election prayer:

May we vote, and if we can’t vote for ourselves, may we vote the best vote possible on behalf of others. Even if those others are in other countries.

May we take a few breaths together on Wednesday morning.

May we assume better things of each other than we ever have before.

May we acknowledge that individualism is propaganda for loneliness and inequality.

May the compression of this absurdity create an unlikely upswell of creativity and stamina.

May we agitate for health care and mental health services and education for those most abused by those traumatized people who have money and bullhorns.  

May we do self-care in order to not lash out. 

May we recover from having our emotions hijacked by algorithms.  

May we heal with each other across disparities, because that’s the only way it happens.

 May our ballots unfold their wings in the hands of the counters, revealing agency, suggesting flight.




“unbridled hatred” quote from Judith Butler.


  • Really beautiful, and full of compassion. One correction, though – the first lady in waiting comes not from the Soviet block, but former Yugoslavia, the same country as me. That used to be a wonderful place before the Balkan wars tore it apart, after she had already left. And the part that she is from, Slovenia, even managed to avoid the wars altogether. It was and remains a beautiful, rich, if somewhat boring place – think of it as less famous Austria. So whatever she might have experienced that led her to take the route she did had nothing to do with the region she is from, which the article seems to imply.

  • I am reading this for the first time eight weeks after the election and six days before the inauguration. This piece has helped me immensely. Thank you for digging deep and sweeping wide.

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