Election Section

The Year-End General Clean Up By FUSAKO DE ANGELIS

Friday December 24, 2004

As a new year steps closer I hear my mother’s haunting voice in the air, “First, clean up the mess!”  

While I grew up in Japan, the end-year general house cleaning was a special event. We were impressed that without it we would never have a new year, not a happy one, anyway.  

I remember watching and admiring my mother, how vigorously and effectively she emptied and reorganized the closets. To me looking behind the sliding doors, made of wall paper with ukiyo-e design, was discovering another reality of the world.  

When my mother asked me to take part in cleaning for the first year helping my elder sister, I felt so proud and grown up. And I learned quickly it was more organizing than dumping carelessly. Just dumping would create another pile.  

After all, it was a few years after the end of WWII which completely burnt down the entire city including our house. Nobody had much in excess, or even enough food. And yet it was amazing for me to see things accumulated as if they had their own lives.  

Then when the new year came, I remember the bracing joy I felt being in a new world, clean, with spirits of the new year flying around us, while we ate ozoni (rice cake soup) and played hyakunin-isshu (the cards of one hundred famous waka poems) in the new kimonos my mother had made for all her daughter.  

Well, can I feel anything like that, or at least a bit of joy for the new year, if I do a general house cleaning this year? I asked myself. And said, no, I doubt it.  

I have lived almost three decades in the States, voted in the last two presidential election as a U.S. citizen. Yet I have never felt this desperate, frustrated and powerless because of the mess that my country has created all over the world. It is beyond my house and closet. How can I begin to deal with it?  

Our election fraud and abuse by touch screen machines and state officials is most appalling to me. Our electoral democracy is a mess.  

According to ex-president Carter, if the United States were a Third World country, our Nov. 2 election would not pass certification by international monitors.  

Have we lost our courage to look into the realities behind the beautiful screen doors painted with letters of democracy and freedom?  

I remember when I was listening to the Ohio public hearing on KPFA, a girl from Oakland (I think she was 14 year old) called in, and asked, “Didn’t we know this would happen since the last election four years ago?” Yes, she is right.  

Now that a new year is only a few steps away, and Bush’s inauguration at hand, I think it is time for us to look at our electoral process.  

My mother’s voice repeats in the air, “Clean up first! Otherwise you will never have a happy new year again.”