Returning to the Civilized World

My personal world has changed so dramatically in recent weeks, becoming one all-consuming groundhog day controlled by a single, hungry, demanding, but oh, so tiny and vulnerable force, that the outside world has grown distant and untouchable.  Immersed in the overwhelming minutia of breast milk, diapers, and the still-to-be solved mystery of baby signs and sounds, I’ve become separated from the rest of society. This year’s election, however, seems to have brought the civilized world back. 

On election day, after nearly a month of being house-bound, I had to venture back into it to head to the polls as Keith, who took the day off work, sat at home with little Finn.  I nervously left instructions on how to administer the baby’s first bottle, and loaded up a bag with my water-filled Sigg, my favorite protein snack bar, a bag of mixed nuts, a copy of Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides, my cell phone, and of course, my wallet with driver’s license and voter ID card.   I expected to be in line for hours.  Although my voting excursion in fact took only 45 minutes and was only a two-minute drive from the house, it still felt like something momentous… a rite of passage, perhaps, as if, like a teenager, the act of driving a car earned me the right to be a part of civilization again, to claim my adult status and independence.  I was far from independent, however.  I called home every fifteen minutes to check on the baby: was he crying? Sleeping? Did Keith have to try the bottle yet? The truth was that the world I was trying to reclaim had shifted; it was no longer mine.  It was Finn’s.

How perfect it is that my act of reinitiation played a small role in making my changed world a better one for my newborn son! I didn’t just physically rejoin society; I participated in a social movement that wants to bring the people back into politics, to make government more connected, more transparent, more civilized for everybody.  This year’s presidential election results offer me hope that little Finn might spend his first years in a culture that prizes intelligent debate over pushy bravado, education over fear-mongering, questioning over silencing, diversity over uniformity.




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