“I’m moving to Canada,” the woman behind the counter told me. “Getting married and moving to Canada. We’ll be outside Toronto.”
She works at the takeout place, Food, Food, where I spend half my life hanging around, since I hate to cook, but love to eat. I’m the kind of horrible cook whose family and friends beg her not to do anything in the kitchen, except take orders and clean up. It’s better that way. Better for all of us.
When my husband’s out of town, I go to Food, Food almost every night. It’s mostly run by young guys. I, personally, think that any young woman who’s looking for a fulfilling relationship should hang around there, too, instead of going to some bar. These guys can hustle and cook and they’re really cute. In my dotage, I may become a matchmaker for all the cute guys who work there. Maybe they’ll give me a discount or something for my services.
But, in the meantime, I’m impressed by my conversation with the one woman behind the counter. “Everybody I know,” I tell her, “is threatening to move to Canada. But you’re actually doing it.”
She smiles and agrees. But she’s moving for love, not politics. I can see that. I can also understand.
Right now, though, I’m in the midst of the perennial pre-election threats of migration by almost every liberal I know. Which is to say, almost everybody I know or spend time with is threatening to move to Canada or Europe or someplace else if the Republicans win and Life As We Know It becomes even more intolerable. Or maybe they’ll just move to Massachusetts or New York, they say. That’s almost a foreign country, isn’t it?
Even my husband, who’s usually pretty measured about such things, starts snorting about how he’d opt to move to New Zealand if the storm-troopers take over and start goose-stepping and rounding up anybody who’s ever read a book or seen a foreign movie with subtitles. You know, people dangerous enough to think the earth is more than six thousand years old.
I kind of understand it (the frustration! the fury!), but I really don’t get it. I can’t imagine moving anywhere else. Maybe you could call this a failure of imagination, but this is where I was born and where I belong and where I want to take my last breath. I don’t want to move anyplace where it’s cold or where they sneer at me and wreck my self-esteem for carrying worthless dollars in my wallet; if I want my self-esteem lowered, I can do it just fine right here.
Still, last night, I sat with my husband and friends and watched the vice-presidential debate — and felt aghast. I tried to be as objective as possible, but gave that up after a good 15 seconds. I can understand people voting for McCain. I wouldn’t do it, ever, but I can understand it. Different people have different ideas about where this country should be headed. In spite of his sleazy and negative campaigning, he’s still a decent man, I like to think. A capable man, however wrongheaded and bellicose.
But Sarah Palin as his vice-president? Vote for someone because she’s so “authentic” she mispronounces “nuclear” and talks like she’s auditioning for a role as Annie Oakley? Sure, she’s cute and spunky and oozes self-confidence like butter on hot popcorn — but she’s not qualified to be in the White House. We’ve already had George W. Bush, who’s similarly authentic and sure of himself and alarmingly incurious and simpleminded — and his administration’s been the greatest disaster in our country’s history.
No matter what the result in November, I’m not going to Canada or New Zealand or Europe. And, neither, I suspect, will my friends. The debacle of the housing market and the economy has made those threats completely empty.
We’ll be staying, whether we like it or not, feeling more and more like visitors in the country we thought we knew. Sometimes, it seems to me, it’s possible to find yourself in a new and foreign country simply by staying put.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)