In one short week the Presidential Election of 2020 will officially happen.
That is to say, the official date set for the 2020 Election will come and it will go. If we are very lucky, by the time it passes we will finally know who’ll be the President of the United States for the next four years.
If we’re not so lucky, everything will still be up in the air and the entire nation will be suspended in a state of anxiety until a final vote count can be reached.
Of course, even we do have a winner by the night of November 3rd or 4th, we still don’t know whether the loser of the contest will accept the results. There might be legal battles.
There might be street battles.
We just don’t know.
As American citizens at this moment in our history, it is safe to say that every one of us old enough to have seen the news is existing in a state of tension that is reminiscent of the day before major surgery. We’re trying to keep ourselves distracted, but every few minutes we remember what looms ahead of us and our hearts give a collective lurch. We have national high blood pressure, regional insomnia and local heartburn.
We’re a wreck.
Some of us are spending all day on social media, aiming for those last minute memes or posts that might just change one mind. Others are listening to history podcasts or old TED Talks just to keep our minds off of things.
A lot of us are stocking up on food, water, medicine and flashlight batteries, too. And almost as many are stocking up on guns and ammunition.
We don’t know what is coming. We don’t know how angry people will be if and when certain things do or do not happen. We can’t see into our own near futures, as the pandemic rages, the election threatens to unravel and the economy teeters on the brink.
As I was cleaning my kitchen after dinner tonight, I started to think about next week and the weeks after it. My heart gave that lurch. I thought over the items in my emergency kit and the supplies that I’ve pulled together “just in case”.
And it occurred to me that a very strange thing had happened to me.
I’d begun to fear my neighbors.
I was afraid of the anger of other Americans if their “guy” lost the election. I was standing in my own suburban American kitchen, worrying about what I’d do if things in my town, my county, or my state turned violent. Would I physically fight other people over an election? Would I physically try to protect my food supplies?
The utter ridiculousness of it hit me hard.
I looked out my window, into the cold October woods. I could see the house next door. The house with the friendly young couple and their baby girl. Past their house lived another nice friendly family, and beyond them some folks we first met when our son was playing hockey.
On the other side, and across the street, all the way around most of the mile long loop of dirt road. I knew the names of the dogs at most houses, and regularly waved to people as we drove past each other.
I remembered the big ice storm of 2008, when people on the street helped each other cut up the trees that had come down across the road. I remembered one neighbor who emptied the water from his pool into trash barrels and brought them around to each house, so we’d have water to flush our toilets even with our electric pumps shut down.
I thought about times we’d picked up each other’s mail, fed each other’s pets, brought each other cookies.
The idea of fighting with them over something as distant as the government seemed absurd.
And it still does.
I have no idea of the political leanings of any of the people who live on my street. They know ours because of the cute flags I put up near our mailbox this past summer. Still, we’ve never talked about politics. I couldn’t begin to know who to fight anyway.
Standing in my kitchen tonight, with the rain dripping off the eaves outside, I came to an important realization. If all hell breaks loose next week, and the grid goes down or things rage out of control, I will help out my neighbors in any way I can.
After all, no matter who any of us have voted for, it won’t be either Joe Biden or Donald Trump who’ll offer us a hot meal when our generator fails. It won’t be one of them sharing a box of pasta or the last bar of soap.
It will be the neighbor whose dog we know or the one who shared her perennials. That’s who we’ll need to depend on if things go as badly as we fear.
As we hold our collective breath and whisper our respective prayers for the next week, we’d better remember that after all WE are the people, WE are the citizens. We need to make sure that we have each other’s backs if those with the power are fighting about who will get to wield it.