I know that no matter how much life has changed in the last year, tomorrow (and the ensuing weeks of court battles and grandstanding and ridiculousness) will change the course of history. Tomorrow may not mean a lot of change in the immediate, regardless of outcome, but the next generation is watching what we decide here, and they will act accordingly. Even if Joe Biden isn't the progressive I'd hoped for, he's a step in the right direction from 4 years of a truly depressing, angering, somewhat predictable period in our history. For all of the surprise every time Trump or one of his supporters does something reprehensible and his party does nothing, I think to myself, "We should have seen this coming."
The amount of pressure is staggering. The anticipation is crippling. The air is tense for everyone, and murmurings of civil war abound as businesses quietly board up their windows. It all has an incredibly doomsday-like vibe, and I'm struggling, as I know many of us are. I've been drinking more just to cope. I walk around aimlessly throughout LA just to let my mind wander, and inevitably it wanders back to the situation our country and our world find us in. The last year, between the virus and the impending election, has put a cloud of despair always at arm's length.
I am sad that our country has so much hate. I am sad at all the things wrong in our country. It's no secret that when I graduated college, my only plan was to get away from the US. I'm the first to criticize us, and I'm usually the last to praise. I've had acquaintances message me directly to tell me to get out of the country if I hate it so much. I've had folks outside of the US spit at me for being American. I am so privileged, and yet, I've never struggled to find something wrong with the country I was born in. The ability to be so staunchly anti-American in my rhetoric is a privilege in itself.
I think though, for those who know me best, they would laugh at calling me anti-American. I am, admittedly, a pessimist. If not for myself, for the plights of the least fortunate of our country, the last four years have been hopeless and bleak. If "the president can't even condemn white supremacy and has a good chance of being reelected" doesn't make you want to curl up under a weighted blanket, I don't know what will. Life is scary right now, more so for many others than me, and maybe why that's why I'm going to say something I rarely do: I have hope.
It's probably why I haven't drank every bottle of wine in California. It was at first a very, very dim light of hope, but as the election has drawn nearer, I've felt the warmth of hope more acutely. Friends who aren't politically involved are volunteering at the polls, text banking, and even helping to count votes. I've seen people offering their services, time, and money to people suffering from the pandemic. I've heard ringing support from colleagues and friends abroad. Everyone is looking at us this week, and perhaps naively, I think we'll rise to the challenge.
In the end, it boils down to the goodness of people for me. There are a lot of suspect people out there, but I've never been the sort of person to assume someone isn't good without the proper justification for that belief. I think people are good. I see it time and time again. People are generally kind to strangers before they know their political beliefs. People generally have compassion for one another. At the same time though, humans are self-interested, even self-obsessed, myself included. The part that gives me hope is that we all find room in that self-interest to care about others. We have all sacrificed things we want in service of others.
I do not hate our country. I criticize it vehemently because I know what it can be. I know what we are capable of. It's depressing to think about children in cages, white supremacists, and voter suppression, but recognizing how depressing those things are also recognizes that we're capable of a nation without those things. Criticism of America is not anti-American. Again, for the people in the back, criticism of your country is not anti-American. Criticism is essential to the improvement of our country. I can criticize all day, but it's because I believe that our future depends on it. You cannot fix flaws without an acute awareness of them, both personally and otherwise. Our national identity is not "us vs. them." Our national identity is complicated, fraught with injustice and even bigotry. That said, we have an obligation to try to leave the world better than when we found it, and I do believe that to be possible.
If Trump wins tomorrow, I'll be sad as hell. I'll be angry as hell, but I know that if that happens, which to be clear is a worst case scenario, I have two options. The first option is that I can feel hopeless, drink myself into oblivion, and scour job sites for positions abroad. It's not a bad option, to be fair. The second option, is I can be miserable about the outcome and let it light a fire underneath me. I have hope because I know how many folks have that fire already and will let it be stoked by injustice. There are too many good people to lose to the bad ones, even if they bad ones are in positions of power. America is a fucking mess, and that's putting it lightly. There is work to be done, and tomorrow's outcome will shape the future of our country.
But hope, tenacity, compassion, acceptance, a penchant for joy, and a genuine care for our neighbor are the logical course of the American experiment. I long for and believe possible a country where we don't have second-class citizens or baseless hatred, even if we do disagree. I have to believe that country is possible, or days like tomorrow would kill me. If tomorrow goes the wrong way, lots of folks probably will actually die as a result, whether that's at the hands of the virus or as a result of a hateful and violent ideology. We need to be better than that. I believe we are better than that.
I choose to have hope because I have to. I implore you to have hope, if not in others, in that classic American self-importance. We can help ourselves and others, and we're all motivated to do so right now in the face of grave danger. The early voting numbers alone show that. Hope isn't futile. Let the next few days be a reminder that American ideals are that: ideals. We must work to make them a reality. I intend to do so, regardless of the election's outcome. Hug your loved ones tight, and take care.