Excuse me. I've been hibernating. I remember the day I fell into a slumber. It was Nov. 8, the night I wrote my last column. No, it wasn't just Trump but the sort of family medical issues that compel a person to say, "Eff the whole world outside my house. I don't care anymore." Gone the very next day were Anderson Cooper, all TV news and most websites, too, except a quick online peek at New York Times headlines. I used to chide young people who say they get their news from comedy shows (really?) but I was right there with them on the couch these past two months. Late Night host Stephen Colbert somehow kept me sane.
This election was not my first rodeo. My first was 1960. I was in high school and that one turned out pretty well. "Ask not what your country can do for you ..." I couldn't actually vote for him yet but he spoke to me. By 1964, I was out in the real world working (no money for college). I was one of two people in our office cubicles at the U.S. Naval Ordnance Test Station in Pasadena who was supporting Lyndon Johnson. The other two dozen cubicle-mates were intelligent, young, passionate, Republican-leaning scientists who thought Goldwater was just fine. (I later married one of them — let's just say, he converted — and we've been together for 52 years.)
We've had some really terrible presidents in my lifetime. Richard Nixon not only was a crook (he knowingly broke laws while in office), it was recently confirmed that he actively worked to scuttle a peace deal Johnson had going late in his presidency that could have ended the Vietnam War. Instead, the war dragged on for years. What a devastating revelation to those whose loved ones were killed or wounded post-1968. (You can peruse H.R. Haldeman's notes regarding Nixon's orders on The New York Times website.)
More recently I was my mother's caregiver for the last years of her life and we had plenty of time for long talks. When she finally died in 2006, she said she was OK with the lymphoma that was taking her bit by bit, but what really upset her was that she would not live long enough to see George W. Bush out of office. She didn't care who came next. Anybody had to be better.
I am an old-school reporter and reporters weren't supposed to have opinions. No bumper stickers on your car or briefcase. No lawn signs. I had been successful so far in my journalistic career here in Humboldt County because I always knew when to change hats and tell readers I'm changing hats. Now I'm a columnist. Now I'm a reporter. In any case, in 2008 I took a leave of absence to volunteer for Obama. I was told at an organizational meeting to forget the entire West Coast. He's not going to win unless he could take Colorado or New Mexico, or both. Just get there if you can and work your tail off, we were told.
In 2008 my tail was 61 years old. I had a sister in Colorado who had a couch. I went. Never worked harder in my life, seven days a week for five weeks. Knocking on doors is not bad. In fact after you get used to it, it's a rush. People are absolutely fascinating. Every house has a story. In Craig, Colorado, we stared poor, white rural poverty in the face every day. Only once did a guy turn his dog loose on me. Every day I came dragging back to my sister's place and thought just one, maybe two people might have changed their minds that day. I could talk to people about Obama and guns. ("I come from Humboldt. Everybody has guns!") I could talk to them about a senseless war that sent their neighbors and brothers to Iraq to die. I tried and always failed to talk to them about coal. In the end, Coloradoans begrudgingly gave Obama a few percentage points more than John Kerry four years previous. That tipped the state and the election for him.
So much is being written these days about the Obama legacy. (Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, anyone? Awesome.) But what directly did he do for me here in Humboldt County? Name one thing. Well, he helped us grow this business, the North Coast Journal. The Affordable Care Act (I'm OK with calling it Obamacare) was really good for our company. Because the Journal is a small business and we paid for employees' medical insurance, we received tax credits every year from 2010 through 2015. What did we do with that money? We hired more people or we gave raises. We printed more pages. We kept expanding every year. We started to make a consistent profit. Finally, when the rates from our private medical insurance provider skyrocketed in just one year, 2015, we stopped providing medical coverage and helped every employee sign up for Covered California, the state's version of the Affordable Care Act, or private insurance. It's working for them and it's working for us as a small company.
What brought me out of my hibernation? Passage of time, plus I'm a news addict. I started listening to NPR on my long walks. I slowly started thumbing through the growing pile of magazines — Time and The Atlantic — in my living room. I turned the TV news back on to catch snippets. (Oh, I missed you, Fareed Zakaria.) Then I caught Obama's farewell speech. Damn him! He was talking directly to me. "For those of you young or young at heart, don't despair. Don't sit on the sidelines ..." Blah, blah. He even called me a citizen.
So on Tuesday of this week I'm going to an organizing meeting at a private home in Eureka (there is one in Arcata, I hear, too) to try to figure out how we, as citizens, can respond to each and every assault this new president will launch against the progress this country has made these past eight years. No, he can't take us back to 1981 or whatever year he fantasizes about. We've evolved and we're not going back. This is our country, our flag and our values. As a nation, we do have a moral compass. And it does not resemble his.
I know there are locals heading to Washington, D.C. for the Women's March this weekend. Good for you. I wish you well. For those of us staying in Humboldt, I hope to see you at the local March Saturday, Jan. 21 at 1 p.m., foot of C Street. Get off your couch. Grab an umbrella. You're tough, Humboldt. Let this new president hear from us.
Editor's note: Check back next week for the Journal's coverage of the inauguration, the Women's March in Washington, D.C. and its sister march in Eureka.