I haven’t written much this year — mostly snippets in my notes folder on my phone, the equivalent of scrap paper doodles, and journal entries in a notebook I dug up from the piles of blank ones that never quite fit. I’ve always used writing as a way to sort out my feelings, make sense of things, organize the world in fiction and prose so I can better understand it and myself. I read and wrote a lot of fiction before Trump was elected. I read and wrote a lot of nonfiction after, for reasons my therapist and I are still working out. But in this the year of our lord 2020, not much of anything.
It occurs to me that part of the problem is that I don’t want to try and make sense of this. It’s been incomprehensible enough to live through. At best our lives have been stripped down to their bare minimums, confined and contained to basic needs and completely upended. At worst, it’s unimaginable grief and uncertainty and loneliness. It’s what we were afraid of on election night, 2016. It’s worse than we imagined.
I voted yesterday.
It seemed impossible, four years ago, that we’d ever get here. It felt like it would be November 9th forever, always just one day passed being able to do anything to fix it. We’ve spent four years trying to fix it. We were, many of us, so certain in 2016 that we were about to do something historic, break a glass ceiling, prove once and for all that we had in fact already fixed something, risen above the dark, insidious hate woven into our founding. And as we’ve gotten closer and closer to Election Day in 2020, I think that I’ve become less and less certain that I even could make sense of any of this, even if I wanted to.
Instead, this year I’ve talked to voters. From campaigning for Elizabeth Warren in the primary to calling and texting and writing letters to voters for Joe Biden, I’ve talked to people all over the country. I talked to my members of Congress too, for COVID 19 relief, for impeachment, to try desperately to stop the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett. At so many points this year, I didn’t try to make sense of it, I just fought.
We’re just a few days out for what will hopefully be a historic repudiation of the violence, bigotry, and corruption of this administration. My brain kind of shorts out if I try to think past November 3rd, and I can’t bring myself to trust any of the polling data so I have no idea what’s coming next. I have no idea if we’re going to win. I have no idea how bad it will get if we lose. I have a cocktail lined up for election night, a probable meal plan, but I still haven’t decided if I’m watching returns come in or the Lord of the Rings.
Joe Biden was not my preferred Democratic candidate. I fell in love with Elizabeth Warren’s detailed policy agenda, her seeming intrinsic understanding of the vast challenges we face and the urgency of the moment beyond the Trump administration. But when you watch Joe Biden interact with people it’s hard not to understand the desire for stability, for something comprehensible and digestible. I’ve grown to appreciate his decency, his care for the details of governing, his ability to connect with people and even his occasional bouts of old man anger.
As we creep (INCREDIBLY SLOWLY) toward the end of this election, the thing that I keep thinking about is not the end result, not the months of potential uncertainty between election night and inauguration day, but the things we’ve built over the past four years — the relationships, the organizations, the habit of civic engagement. We have a more expansive understanding of the responsibility of living in a democracy, the responsibility we have to talk to each other, yes, but also to draw our own lines in the sand — this, here, is what I cannot accept.
Democracy is annoying that way — a mess of contradictions. We are caretakers of a government that is supposed to care for us. No matter what happens next, that much remains true. The work goes on. But maybe, just maybe, next year it’ll get a little easier. (Throwing salt over my shoulder, I whisper to myself “and maybe it won’t.”)
I voted yesterday, one week out from the most important election in my lifetime and my hope is not buoyed by a single candidate or even the possibility of winning this election, but the belief I’ve built up brick by brick over the past few years. I believe in our voices, I believe in our strength. I believe in our ability to fight for what we believe in and to build the better world we imagine. I believe in all of us, every single one of us, working to make the world better right where we stand.
See you on the other side, my friends.