The End of Optimism

By Elizabeth W. Green

I started this diary an optimist. Not only did I think John F. Kerry would be president-elect by this point, but I thought that when he won, on that glorious day, I’d be able to talk about it with my roommate. I wrote on these pages not too long ago that we would embark on an experiment in civil discourse, my Republican roommate and I. We would put differences behind us and consider each other’s side.

To some extent this happened. Barrett B. Jackson ’06, of Birmingham, Al., would send me, of what has been called the People’s Republic of Takoma Park, Md., an e-mail with an opinion piece published in a major newspaper expressing the “other side” of the big November question. I would promise to read the article, send her one of my own, and accidentally never reciprocate.

But at least we were trying.

Tuesday night, the project—like the election—came to a disappointing end. Sitting in an empty common room in Mather, two like-minded friends and I stopped speaking as the red states began piling up on the television screen. When Fox News called Ohio for Bush, we decided it was time to turn off the television and mourn. I had a decent stock of comfort food in my room, so we moved there.

We had forgotten one thing: Barrett, who greeted us as we walked into Leverett Towers with a big smile and, then, condolences. I realized then that I would not be able to talk to her about politics for a while.

“I feel like my mother just died and you don’t care,” I told her. She did care, and she tried not to be smug, but who could blame her for being happy her man was staying four more years?

Things are okay now. We talk about everything else, as usual. But we don’t talk about politics. It makes me sad, and I pledge to try to bridge the divide, but I’m no longer optimistic.