The Day After

I did not watch the election for the same reason I don’t follow sports team: I have a fear of being swept up by outside forces. I hate the self-congratulatory pat on the back that we give ourselves as if the victory says something about our character. I hate even more the depression that comes over us when we’ve invested so much psychic energy into winning and we lose. I did not turn on the radio. I bought a newspaper to find out who won.

According to some pundits, the second Obama term should be transformative. Unfettered by re-election issues, he is free to fall off the donkey and to become Paul. Will he nail his political opponents to a cross? Will he fulfill every white mans’ nightmare: enslave all whites and give African-Americans their 40 acres and a mule? We’re fooling ourselves if we think that the Obama of the previous term was a false Obama and that the true Obama will come out. Obama will remain the centrist he has always been. He will do a fine job as president within the narrow constraints set by our current way of thinking: privatization is good; raising taxes on the wealthy is bad.

I’m standing in front of my grill, typing this into my phone, watching the glass bubble on top of my coffee maker. It’s about 35 degrees out and the steady breeze is stiffening my fingers. I might have electricity today. I might not. The crews are putting back into place the same decrepit electrical system that broke down in the hurricane and which may be damaged by today’s Noreaster. I pause, swiftly moving my hands through the wisps of steam puffing out of the spout, to momentarily relieve the stiffness.

The coffee maker is old technology, purchased during an “antiques” street fair that was quite popular in my town. It was a kitchen decoration, a tie to the past, along with our 1950′s era breakfast nook and kitchen cabinets, an old fashioned straw dispenser, and a “made in Germany” hand-crank meat grinder that my grandmother carried across war-torn Europe and brought to the United States. The coffee maker and grinder probably have a combined age of 140 years. They were built using the best available technology. They still work.

The electrical grid that is being put back into place here on Long Island is also old technology. Unlike the meat grinder and coffee maker, we know that this technology cannot weather a storm. We do what is expedient. Sometimes that is all you can do. But we won’t come back to it and do it the right way. We are recreating the very conditions that created the disaster. It is an electrical grid bailout.

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