Sunday, November 6, 2016

It'll all be better on Wednesday

How's everyone doing? Is everyone still breathing and functioning at some human level? I know election seasons are challenging. It sounds like stress eating or drinking are good ideas but they're not. Try to stay healthy.

I've had a version of the "it'll all be better once this election is over" conversation about 40 times this past week with various friends and acquaintances. I'm not exactly sure what "better" actually is: do they mean by "better" that once the election is over we may or may not plunge into a dark abyss of hate and uncertainty? Then yes, things will get better. If they mean that the barrage of awful ads, terrible stories, and general dislike of the entire process will end then they don't understand things very well. I know that most people don't think either of these things. They believe "better" means things will calm down and we can get back to "normal." Or that they won't have to keep their children from watching the nightly news lest they hear the word "pussy" or something else equally inappropriate out of the mouth of a major party candidate.

There is very little I can do for any of these friends and acquaintances as we have these conversations. I know they want to be less anxious and stressed. I know they want to lose the fear of what is coming with the "end" of the election but unfortunately, that's not going to happen. I can pat them on the hand and offer a word of encouragement about having faith and being a good citizen. But that's about it. There is nothing else I can do to make them feel any better. I'm not psychic and I can't predict the future.

Depending on the friend, I usually ask two questions: What have you done? What are you willing to do next?

We don't have to be embedded with a campaign to make a difference. Voting is one way of making a difference; don't forget to vote on Tuesday EVEN if you believe you don't have to vote because your state always does this or that. It's not enough; get yourself to the polls on Tuesday and use your voice. But what else did you do? That's my question. We have become a nation of watchers and waiters. We watch what happens and we wait to see what will happen next. We think someone else will fix the thing or someone else will figure out how to combat institutional racism or sexism. Someone else will mend fences between religious groups or the police and the population. Someone else will figure out poverty and violence and all the other ills in the world. Someone else will do it.

You're right: someone else will. And then you'll be forced to decide where you stand when they do.

I know that I did not sit idly by during this election. I might not have been on the campaign trail and in the HRC headquarters every day but I was out there doing my part. I registered voters, I canvassed, and I phone banked whenever I could. Had I not been able to do that I would have continued to spend my time having conversations about these candidates with people so that they wouldn't just take the latest meme or crazy story and read it as truth. I asked questions and I had uncomfortable conversations with people even when they'd rather not listen. So I ask my friends who tell me they're scared and anxious, I ask them did they do that? Did they have those conversations? I know it's hard and you don't think anyone will listen but having those conversations, on all sides, is important. We can continue to disagree but we will have at least had these conversations and tried to understand one another. That is what being part of a civil society is about.

Don't forget to vote! I'll say it again, your vote matters. Maybe you don't believe that anymore but I do and it's important to keep this promise of democracy going. Maybe you can even wear white on Election Day to honor the women who came before you. On Tuesday, I'll be out casting my vote and making sure members of my community have a safe space to vote. Yes, I live in Arlington County, arguably the bluest part of Virginia, but I will be there so my neighbors can cast their vote however they choose to vote. I will be there to answer questions, provide a sample ballot should they want one, and make sure no one who can vote is prohibited from doing so. When I leave my shift at the end of Election Day, I know I will have done all that I can to make history.

And then the real work will begin. No matter who wins on Tuesday, the real work begins once we have a new President. I'll pose my second question again: What are you willing to do next?

If I have the joy of saying "Madam President" on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, that does not mean I stop. It becomes my responsibility to hold Madam President accountable for her actions as President and work to make the changes she campaigned on become realities. It is my responsibility to hold Congress accountable for their actions and to question them when they continue to get in the way of progress and what is good and right for our country. It is my responsibility to vote and to question and to pester and to not back down.

If instead I have to choke on the name of our next President every time I say it, it is my responsibility to make sure his campaign promises that support hate and divide do not come to fruition. It is my responsibility to fight for my rights as a woman who does not want lawmakers and politicians making decisions about my body or anyone else's. It is my responsibility to fight against speech and actions that divide because of race, religion, or who a person loves. It is my responsibility to not allow us to step back into a place that we don't need to be as a country.

I am ready to do all of these things. Are you?

Vote on Tuesday. Don't forget to use your voice and exercise one of your fundamental rights. Don't let that right walk away from you because you don't think it matters. It matters.

If you still feel anxious and scared, here's the most adorable picture of Pumpkin (as determined by social media activity). If you click on it, you can probably download it or print it to keep with you always. Look at it when you feel scared; I promise it will help.

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