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Escape to Jennitopia

The XX Files

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Post-election plan: look for Utopia

Though the stakes aren't as high as they were in 2000 and 2004, I won't be able to handle bad news on Election Day. Do you remember when Kerry lost? Do you remember the sick, crawling-around-the-kitchen-floor, not-answering-the-phone horror of it all? I might have a flashback if we don't dump the Republicans, those power-bloated ticks tainted with Iraq blood who shove bricks of cash down their pants as more Americans lose health care and more families slide below the poverty line.

The Dems have a good shot at gaining control of the House and possibly the Senate next week --- even some Republicans are admitting it --- and I'm getting waaayy too invested in the outcome. History and habit are, after all, against us. In 2004, for example, more than 96 percent of incumbents were reelected to Congress. True, today several Republican congressmen and cronies are being investigated, have been led out in handcuffs, or have ducked into rehab, but that doesn't ensure a big Democratic win on Election Day.

I'm also banking on the large number of women who are running for state offices. This year 2430 women are vying for state House and Senate seats. This isn't a record, but it's up a reassuring 10 percent since 2004, when 2220 women ran for those slots. Also, women are running for many statewide executive offices. Ten are running for governor, including incumbent Jennifer Granholm of Michigan. What if they don't do well? I'll admit I'm fragile.

I'm already coming a bit unglued. Months of bad news has had me pulling away from reality and taking refuge in the idea of utopias. What if I lived in a place where none of this --- the politics, the policies --- mattered? A place where my values matched my peers' and we all happily toiled --- or discussed toiling without actually doing it --- together.

This escapist fantasy started last summer when fictional utopias like"Animal Farm" and "Brave New World"topped my reading list. I love exposing my kids to disturbing literature, so this summer's reading theme was "You Think You Have It Bad? Wait 'til You Read This Shit." We started with Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" and Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" and moved on to such uplifting tales as "The Lord of the Flies" and "1984."

Current events also reinforced my fascination with insular communities. Witness the tantalizing glimpses into North Korean life, where images of workers in gleaming uniforms contrast with dissidents' accounts of scavenging for bark to eat. The Pennsylvania schoolhouse murders brought the Amish community --- and their astonishing willingness to forgive --- to my attention.

Since I'm too tall to be Kim Jong-il and am in no way as nice as the Amish, I'm forming my own private Idaho. At the first sign of bad news on Tuesday, November 7, I'm pulling up stakes and moving to Jennitopia. Of course, I won't base Jennitopia solely on those fictional dystopias (the opposite of utopias, places characterized by poor standards of living and often tyranny). I'll look to the great 19th-century innovators who, in reaction to the industrial revolution, formed real-life utopias. Two Massachusetts examples --- Brook Farm and Fruitlands, which was founded by Louisa May Alcott's father --- come to mind.

Because the news is depressing and driving me into the pantry where I miserably inhale leftover candy corn, Jennitopia won't have media access. I'll strive for Amish generosity and Brook Farm self-sufficiency. Toward that end, I've been making bread and soup like a human squirrel stocking up for the winter.

If Vice President Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld kneaded a loaf of oatmeal-brown-sugar toasting bread or sautéed chunks of Hubbard squash for soup, the world would be a better place. Making something small and vital dissolves the urge to conquer and kill. Trust me on this.

Other models for Jennitopia include those cults where the leader has multiple partners. I'd be willing to give this a go (for the greater good, of course). If my husband has any objections, I'll show him the sign hanging over the compound entrance. (Note to self: remember to ask him to make the sign.)

"Honey, look at the sign," I'll say, my golden robe glowing in the red New Mexico dusk. "It says 'Jennitopia,' not 'Jennifer's Husbandtopia.'"

As in SollaSollew, where they never have troubles, at least very few, there is one problem. Jennitopia is supposed to reflect my ideals and values, right? A cornerstone of my belief system, however, is to follow the news. Closely. (Cue Star-Spangled Banner music; initiate waving-flag graphic.) It's my duty as a citizen to know what's going on and to be part of the solution.

But my anxious surveillance of the news is what got me here in the first place. Even if I could locate Jennitopia off the grid, I'd still obsess. If a plane were to fly overhead, I'd wonder who's on board. A greedy, soulless lobbyist, perhaps, giving a handjob to a Goose Orange-soaked senator in exchange for fat contracts? Or maybe celebrity-besotted media whores rubbing their nipples in glee as they disrupt a singer's adoption instead of covering Africa's AIDS epidemic?

Jennitopia or no Jennitopia, I can't run. I can't hide. I guess I'll scrap my plans and make damn sure I'm there early on Tuesday to vote. Maybe we'll win. If not, maybe my husband will make me the sign anyway and let me wear the golden robe around the house.

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