Yes I know that this is not the only conversation we should be having about the election. Maybe it’s not even the most important one. But it’s the only one I feel qualified to contribute to.
So on Tuesday night, amidst that whole barrage of unmoored language came this tweet by Patton Oswalt.
At the time, I read it and dismissed it, preoccupied by all the other demons swirling around that hectic night. And yes, perhaps there was also a little bit of denial there.
When I woke up in the morning, though, my body hurt as if I had been drinking and I knew that on some visceral level, I had accepted it : that Hillary’s loss had at least in part been due to misogyny. I was crying — the kind of crying where tears just appear on your cheeks out of nowhere — and I couldn’t stop.
It felt different from the other fears and regrets and betrayals that I was dealing with — it felt personal — It’s not that I ever wanted to be president of the United States, but the message: people like you shouldn’t even think of doing this — it shook me to the core. It’s an unbidden reaction to injustice and discrimination, and it is running through my body like a disease.
And then the concession speech. I was so worried — when she didn’t speak that night, when she was behind schedule the next morning.
I mean what do you when you lose a presidential election after 50 years of campaigning for the job? Was she lying on some hotel floor somewhere pounding her fists into the baseboard?
Sure that would have been me — and most of us –and she’d certainly earned the right. But for her sake, I wanted that dignity at the finish, to show her as the stateswoman she’d always been.
And she did it. She stood there and smiled and made eye contact and was presidential even in defeat; and she held it together, which is what Hills has always done best.
The speech was strong, a subtle balance of grace, anger and gratitude. And it hit its mark. I could see the Facebook responses proliferating, sound bites lining up beside the images on the screen, spinning off into their own separate existences.
I think that of all the excellent speeches of this campaign, this is one whose words will resound, will be repeated, on college walls, in graduation addresses, on motivational posters, repeated until the words are so well known that they become trite. And when that happens, when her words have become part of our cultural wallpaper, Hillary Clinton will have become the legend she deserves to be.
It’s already started — on Wednesday, my friend Cate posted this photo of one of the walls of Toronto Western Hospital.
And I think: well okay then. She’s not quitting, so neither should we.
We knew this would be hard row to hoe, and now we see exactly how hard. But hasn’t that always been the case? — backwards and in high heels, as they used to say. Now we know, and when we come back, we’ll work even harder. Some will be daunted or disgusted by the Boschian absurdity of the past 16 months, but for some this will be a gauntlet thrown down.
Those girls in the gallery with the tear-splotched faces — they’ll remember this moment. And they’ll be back, and so will this one, and so will the rest of us, all the way back to the women who were there from the beginning.