Before today is done, the final vote will be cast (though not counted), and I’m filled with existential dread—the kind that keeps you up late into the night and wakes you at the crack of dawn, anxiety pressing down on your chest, as you sit up gasping. It’s been this way for days, weeks even. The lead-up to the election has been particularly brutal, but I’ve been wracked with anxiety many times over the past four years. There have been so many assaults on our democracy, so much rending of the fabric of our nation and our humanity. And if you’ve been a regular in this space for some time, you know that I wrote about the election in 2016, and that I made my disdain for Donald Trump very clear. You can find those essays here, here and here, if you’d like a refresher or you haven’t read them. But, I haven’t written about this election yet. And I’ve been trying to figure out why…
Part of the reason is just simple logistics. I had a very full plate as election season heated up (I still do). I released my fifth book; I’ve been texting for the Biden – Harris campaign; and perhaps most importantly, I’ve adopted a new love after losing my beloved three-legged rescue, Scruffy in July. My last essay was in June in the wake of George Floyd’s killing. After that, Scruffy went downhill very quickly, and I wanted to spend whatever limited time I had with him, not on my laptop. Not long after he passed away, I decided to self-publish my book, Feel No Evil, because I wanted it out before the election, and traditional publishing would just take too long. And in September we brought home our new furry bundle of love, Mocha. Sweetest boy in the world, but he is a mischievous little guy and likes to get into (and try to eat) everything. So, I’m often running interference, scooping him up for kisses before he can get into trouble or try to steal food from our very chill senior girl. Finally, volunteering for the Biden – Harris campaign has been more urgent than an essay…but writing an essay can help sway the, I don’t know, maybe one undecided voter left at this point.
Because…let’s be real—hardly anyone is undecided. Everyone is firmly in their camps, absolutely convinced that their candidate is the right one and a loss will forever destroy our country. And this is probably the main reason why I haven’t written any essays about the election. Quite honestly, the past four years have been bruising in their divisiveness. I haven’t unfriended anyone nor unfollowed anyone due to political differences (at least not anyone I know personally), but I have been unfriended and unfollowed by Trump supporters with whom I’ve been close, and it disappointed and saddened me. I did “mute” a few people (no one I’ve known for very long or know in real life), but since you don’t know if someone mutes you, it seemed to me a pretty innocuous solution if I didn’t feel like seeing someone’s Q Anon posts.
I also stopped posting anything political on my Facebook profile, with the exception of petitions to oppose Trump’s gutting of animal protections. Animal welfare supersedes my reticence to share my political beliefs. And to me, that’s less about politics and more about kindness. But—and there is a but—I’m in lots of secret “resistance” groups, and I can post with impunity there. I ended up settling mostly in just one, because it’s populated with all people from my area, many of whom I know personally. It even inspired a bit of my novel.
I know that some people may accuse me of “living in a bubble,” but really, who isn’t living in a bubble in our hyper-partisan, rancorous times? You listen to what you want to hear. I switch between CNN and MSNBC. (I will fully admit that I have a huge girl-crush on Rachel Maddow; to me she’s as comforting as a bowl of mashed potatoes with lots of butter and milk. And she spoke so eloquently during my son’s UMass virtual graduation. It’s my alma mater too, so of course I feel a connection now…one sided as it may be. My dream is to have her read my book.) You will never catch me watching Fox News (unless Pete Buttigieg is on). And I’m sure I have friends and family who won’t switch off from Fox News. That’s why I stopped posting. It’s not worth the conflict.
But it’s Election Day, and I have to open my mouth. And in a nod to how difficult it was to write this essay, I will share that the line preceding this first said, “It’s forty-eight hours until election day,” then twenty-four, then twelve, and finally I’m finishing it Election Day morning, oops…Election Day afternoon—nothing like the last minute. But, I have a voice and a (very modest) platform. I need to use it. Of course my almost 5,200 followers on Twitter know exactly how I feel (and that number goes up and down on any given day). I let loose on there on a daily basis. I know I’m preaching to the choir on there, though. Like attracts like, and I have a pretty small percentage of followers whom I can actually sway with those 280 characters. So, why did I decide to speak out on here and why now?
The “Why now?” question is obvious. It’s now or never. The other question is a bit thornier, but I think it boils down to: if I don’t, will I regret staying quiet? Oh and there’s one more thing, spilling my thoughts onto the page (or into a blog post) usually helps with stuff like that existential dread I mentioned. So, here’s what I’m sharing…
If you haven’t voted yet, please vote. If you haven’t voted yet, and you’re somehow still on the fence about whom to support…please think about our better angels in this country. Think about what we are turning into; think about the division, the hate, the rhetoric that has been spewing out of the White House. Think about the Trump supporters who tried to run the Biden – Harris campaign bus off the road…and think about Trump’s response to that, “I love Texas!” This is not normal. The FBI is investigating the incident as an act of domestic terrorism, and Trump is lauding them.
It’s not normal, but it’s also not surprising. Trump is a master in the nefarious art of stochastic terrorism. His “Lock her up” and “Liberate Michigan” chants led to a white supremacist group’s plan to kidnap and murder Governor Gretchen Whitmer. And then he said that “maybe it wasn’t a problem” and that he saved her…his FBI saved her and she should thank him. His words inspired this plot. His invitation to the Proud Boys, a white supremacist hate group, to “Stand down and stand by” may very well wreak more havoc today and in the coming days.
Many of Donald Trump’s supporters, or at least the most voiciferous ones, are taking heed of his words and are already intimidating voters. They have snarled traffic, bringing it to a standstill—like in New York and New Jersey—in mostly Democratic areas, making it more difficult to go to the polls. All of this is third-world nation, dictator-type stuff. And it’s a slippery slope. If Trump gets another four years, how long before he employs more shadow militia to pellet peaceful protesters with rubber bullets again? I would guess the answer is days, if not hours. Look at the peaceful march to the polls that ended with children being doused with pepper spray. There is too much at stake in this election to sit it out or even to vote third party. This could be our last free and fair election (and my fingers and toes are crossed that this one will actually be free and fair).
And I know as a straight, white woman I don’t have as much at stake if Trump wins again as many others. Yes, I have a laundry list of pre-existing conditions from asthma to Hashimoto’s to Factor XI Definciency (Hemophilia C), among others. I’m old enough to remember when pre-existing conditions caused me to go into debt when I was a young, single music journalist paying for my own healthcare. My youngest son also has a list of pre-existing conditions a mile long. And my other boys have some things too that could be blocks to them getting insurance, should protections be done away with. But, that is just a tiny part of why I am so distraught at the thought of a Trump presidency. The bigger picture is everything else we as a nation stand to lose if those who are marginalized are demonized, as well.
I worry about my black and brown friends; my LGBTQ family and friends (and especially those who fall into both groups); I worry incessantly about the 545 children torn from their families, traumatized and stranded at the border. I worry about disabled folks and Trump’s constant mocking of them. I worry about my son who is on the autism spectrum (Aspergers) and also has Tourette’s (plus all those other pre-existing conditions I mentioned). I worry about climate change and the world we will leave our children, since it’s already burning and slammed with ferocious storms, and the current occupant thinks climate change is a hoax. Speaking of denying science, I worry about how much worse covid will get with no plan, except to fire one of the world’s foremost infectious disease experts and hope for herd immunity. I worry about our brave troops, disparaged by Trump as “suckers and losers.” I worry about civility and discourse. I just worry.
So…that’s why I’m asking if you didn’t vote yet, and you think your vote doesn’t matter; if you think a vote for a third party is sending “a message” to the Dems; or if you’ve run Joe Biden and Kamala Harris through a purity grinder and found them lacking—put the good of the country first, I’m begging you. Let’s get this country back on track. Let’s be who we know we are…kind, inclusive, optimistic and way better united, than divided. Thank you. And if you’ve already cast your vote for compassion, thank you from the bottom of my heart. This is our moment of truth. Let’s make the most of it, before it’s too late.