Monday, November 3, 2008

The Longest Day

This is the day before the most historic election of our time. Tomorrow, those who have not already voted, will pour into polling places and cast ballots, in what will no doubt turn into a knock-down, drag-out race that we will not know the winner of until Wednesday morning. With that in mind, it reminds me of the night before Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Europe in June 1944. On the one hand, you had the German forces, vigilant, awaiting an invasion that was inevitable, but not knowing where it would be or when. And the Allies, men by the tens of thousands crammed onto ships of every type and in airplanes overhead, keyed up, nervous, trained to a fine edge, ready to hit the beach and begin the end of Hitler's reign of terror over Europe.

No one knew what the morrow would bring. Could thousands upon thousands of men and their tons of supplies be brought safely onto a French beachhead, and could that wave of men and material make it off the beach and in-land? Could the Germans hold the Allies on the beach long enough to bring up armor support and destroy the invaders piecemeal? What would the casualties be like? Who would live and who would die?

We face that uncertainty now. For all the preparation, all the phone calls, all the voters registered, all the signs, placards, and rallies, what will happen tomorrow? Will voting machines break? Be tampered with? Will people vote who should not? Will people not be allowed to vote who should? Will the floods of people seeking to vote lead to hours-long lines? How long will the counting take? Which states will be the true battlegrounds?

No amount of preparation and rehearsal could prepare the men who hit the beach of D-Day for what happened. Some things went right, some went horribly wrong. In places the Germans were well prepared; in others, they fired hardly a shot. Masses of men were felled, dying without so much as bring their rifle off their shoulder. Landing craft were blown apart. Tanks sank in the English Channel or were torn apart on the beach. Organization melted away, and men had to dig in and take control in ones and twos, often with no one to lead them. By the end of that day, the Allies had their foothold, one they would not relinquish.

And so it will go tomorrow. There will be skirmishes. There will be fights. There will be broken machines and choked polling places, and paper ballots. And then, slowly, the crowds will clear, the polls will close, and the votes will be tallied.

Tomorrow, our country will be different, no matter the outcome, for this campaign has cast that difference in stark relief. A great portion of our nation is prepared to move forward, step away from the nation we have been the last 225 years and take us forward into a new age. Many are unsure. Some are scornful. A few, closet anarchists, unhappy with any outcome which forces them to confront their true "beliefs." There will be joy. There will be sorrow. There will be anger. But there will be change.

And so, like those men 64 years ago, we wait. We wait, secure in the knowledge that we have done everything we could as individuals and as a nation to prepare. That when the ramp drops, we will surge into the teeth of the maelstrom, brandishing our votes as we cross the beach and struggle toward the high ground. And when the day is done, and the shock of the day has worn off, we will be able to lean back and know that we accomplished something, a great something, something that will forever change our destiny.

1 comment:

  1. Man, this is a relief, but I forgot what its like when we are on the receiving end of all the criticism. So far, I think he is coming into this with as level a head one can have after being voted into the most powerful position in the world. I already know many friends who will be against ANYTHING he does.
    I also believe that experiencing that wonderful day, hugging strangers on the street, chatting it up with all sorts of people on the subway in regards to "yes we can" will be remembered just as much by myself as will the momentous occasion itself. And ironically enough, I was able to watch the election wind down and his lovely speech in the backyard of "Hope Lounge". I can't wait to be able to fully articulate it in a post, but I am not there yet. Good luck with