Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Patricia A. Nugent: A Yawn is Better than a Gasp

I’m sending money, canvassing, registering voters, and voting for Joe.

He wasn’t my first choice either. Or my third or fourth. In fact, I was heard to mutter at the screen, “Go home, Joe. Your time has passed.” I was sure he’d disappear after such a poor showing in the first few primaries. He was too old, too male, too white, too ten-years-ago. And what’s with those Ray-bans, anyway? 

Still smarting from the undisguised misogyny leveled at Hillary Clinton, I felt desperate for a surrogate to crack the highest and toughest glass ceiling in this country. Kamala, Amy, Elizabeth…surely, we’d choose one of these women. I mean, come on! We need female energy to counter the blatant repression of women’s rights the current president has unleashed. Don’t we?

But one-by-one, they each lost traction – neither the money nor the votes came through. I re-considered the remaining male candidates. Although disappointed by the lack of diversity, I knew I’d support the frontrunner; I told friends I’d even vote for a mechanized monkey wearing a little bellhop cap, clanging the cymbals as he rocks back and forth.

In my malaise, I stopped following primary results until it was time to cast my ballot in the New York State primary, where Uncle Joe was “last man standing.” I half-heartedly completed my absentee ballot – the only time I can remember unenthusiastically voting for my party’s nominee.  

Joe Biden’s candidacy is a big yawner for me. But I’ve since realized that a yawn is better than a gasp. I’d rather be bored to tears by Joe Biden’s presidency than gasp whenever I hear the latest Trump affront on our democracy. He’s destroying our social norms, wrenching away our liberties. Scaring us to the point of depression and disease. Making us gasp for air when faced with the ruthlessness of his administration. Gasping for air when friends and family defend the indefensible. 

George Floyd’s fatal inability to breathe symbolizes our nation’s collective struggle for oxygen. Not just because of authoritarian knees on our necks. Not just because of COVID and masks. Not just because of relaxed environmental regulations. Not just because of out-of-control forest fires and record-breaking temperatures. But because of all of it. All of it at the same time renders us gasping for air. 

While I may not “get it,” Joe Biden won his party’s nomination fair and square, even with a weak ground game. Without Super Delegates, without favored funding from the DNC, Joe is the candidate supported by the majority of primary voters, with significant support from people of color. Yes, he is flawed and bumbling. His stories are timeworn. I sometimes cringe when he speaks, afraid his foot will obscure his dazzling smile. Some say he’s benign; others say he’s as corrupt as any mainstream politician. Although he may not be progressive enough to fully right the ship, the ship is sinking right now. Maybe we just need a placeholder to plug some holes. Someone in the Oval Office who isn’t dangerously psychotic. Someone who makes us yawn. 

I used to be embarrassed when I yawned during yoga class. I’d try to be discrete, but my yogi noticed and explained that yawning is an indication that more oxygen is needed to energize cells. A yawn enables us to relax so that we can become more aware, more alert. Maybe if we have the chance to catch our collective breath, we can become more aware and more alert as to the direction our immature democracy needs to go in next. 

Joe may bore and disappoint me, but he doesn’t scare me. And right now, that’s invaluable to my quality of life. 

Progressives need to take a page from the one-note Evangelical hymnal, which pledges unwavering support for Trump’s agenda despite the sinner they know he is. They lift their eyes onto the Supreme Court, and that’s all that matters. So must we.

A good night’s sleep builds immunity, especially important during this pandemic. I’ll sleep better and suffer fewer waking nightmares if Donald Trump is resoundingly defeated. Maybe we can stop gasping for air and, instead, start yawning in January. In the meantime, I’m sending money, canvassing, registering voters, and voting for Joe. To do otherwise would be as unthinkable as voting for Trump. GASP! 


Patricia A. Nugent’s muse is found in lifting up voices of marginalized people. She’s the author of the book They Live On: Saying Goodbye to Mom and Dad, and editor of the anthology Before They Were Our Mothers: Voices of Women Born Before Rosie Started Riveting. She volunteers to teach writing, journaling, spirituality, healing, and feminist history courses to adult learners. Her blog can be found at www.journalartspress.com

6 comments on “Patricia A. Nugent: A Yawn is Better than a Gasp

  1. John Duffy
    August 11, 2020

    Well done. John

    Liked by 1 person

  2. patleonardphotopoet
    August 11, 2020

    Bravo! I’m with you all the way, although maybe not yawning quite so much. The man lives and breaths compassion, an unknown quantity in the dictator presently presiding in the White House.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. PARVISANI
    August 11, 2020

    I just listened to instructions on various breathing techniques for different outcomes on TedTalks and then read your post (I love synchronicity)….great analogies about breathing throughout and boy has this all been completely visceral. Thanks again for an insightful post, Pat.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. donnakaz
    August 11, 2020

    Excellent essay, (I write as I yawn). Looking forward to the anoucement of Biden’s running mate.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Beth Peyton
    August 11, 2020

    This is how I feel, too. These feel like my words! Thank you for expressing them. And reminding me to take a big breath. To yawn.

    Liked by 1 person

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