THE BLOG
03/28/2008 02:48 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Tears & Fears

"It's the tears. She pretended to cry, the women felt sorry for her, and she won," said Bill Kristol. So did his page-mate Maureen Dowd, that fierce feminist. So did many of my friends.

Why is it ok for men to get misty and not for women? Why is it assumed everything HRC does is scripted? Why is she seen as bloody Lady Macbeth while Obama is seen as darling Cordelia? Why is a man more sincere than a woman? Why?

Gloria Steinem says we'll do anything not to elect a woman.

"Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House. This country is way down the list of countries electing women and, according to one study, it polarizes gender roles more than the average democracy."

That has been my experience as a writer. Whether I have written about women or men, the present or the past, the USA or other countries, politics or poetry, I have been assailed by both genders as self-involved, narcissistic, shrill -- buzz words for women who try to change the status quo.

There's a t-shirt that says: "Women Who Change the World Are Rarely Polite" -- but do we believe it? We buy the t-shirt. We wear the t-shirt. But what do we really believe? Do we allow women the same emotional latitude as men? I doubt it.

But perhaps my experience is skewed. Perhaps the world has changed. I hope so. I want Gloria Steinem to be proven wrong, but I question it. When I think of the way Eleanor Roosevelt was attacked, Geraldine Ferraro was attacked, Bella Abzug was attacked, Nancy Pelosi is attacked, Hillary is attacked, I wonder. I hope like hell to be mistaken. I hope gender doesn't matter. I hope race doesn't matter, but I wonder.

So this will be the election in which we discover how much has changed. Will the politics of fear be upended? Will gender matter? Will race? Will experience? Will the needs of children? Will the crashing economy?

Will we repudiate the values of the military industrial complex or will General Electric, Murdoch's News Corp, Redstone's Viacom Cheney's Halliburton and Bush's beloved Blackwater still find a way to prevail? Will Obama get nominated and then be shot like Dr. King? God forbid -- but America has gone this way before. Will Hillary be nominated and then smeared like Al Gore and John Kerry? Will John McCain's affection for the "surge" affect the fearful as they ponder their choices?

I believe that what we do in the voting booth is scripted in childhood. I vote Democratic because my parents loved Franklin D.Roosevelt. Some of my pals vote Republican because their parents believed in fiscal probity. They have forgotten that the GOP no longer believes in it. Perhaps I can't know how independents feel. But we will find out.

Let's just learn patience and try not to predict the outcomes in this amazing year. Yes, pundits have to pund. Columnists need to fill up columns. TV newsreaders need to seem prescient. But maybe we can't predict the changes that have surged in America as we watched rich, old, white men lie and cheat and steal elections, as we watched them enrich their cronies while
impoverishing average Americans, as we saw their hunger for oil and their disdain for our lovely green planet, as we watched, horrified, as Mr. Kerry and Ms. Pelosi feared changing course more than they feared the Repugnicans.

So now we have to do the hardest thing of all: not rush to judgment, wait, cultivate watchfulness not opinion mongering. Can we do it?

Our democracy may depend on it.

Kafka had this word over his desk: WARTEN (WAIT). Every writer must learn to do that while the unconscious works and underground forces prevail. Maybe countries have to do that too.

The eternal judgmentalism of our crappy news media makes that very hard. But this time we have to learn it so as not to foul up the chance of change. The chance of change is precious. It is also fragile. Let's give change a chance.