On the Doorstep
It hit me last night. I have remained an observer and prognosticator throughout this election cycle, but the weight of the moment finally set in. I’m apprehensive and anxious about the election, not because of a tight race, but because the alternative is terrifying to imagine. Even after four years of this waking American nightmare, I simply refuse to imagine that it could happen again. Sure, the rational side of my brain knows that anything is possible. But, the hopeful voice in my head — living through this pandemic — has dismissed that possibility because it was too stressful to entertain. This feeling is not grounded in predictions, but in possibilities.
I don’t recognize her anymore
Countries and cultures modulate over time, that much is given. But the level of divisiveness, hate and incivility in today’s America is not something I ever envisioned. We used to aspire to our better angels, even when outcomes were far from ideal. Unity and bipartisanship were not such scarce quantities. The influence of one man, whether cause or symptom, cannot be underestimated. The President is an accelerant, pouring gas on the fire of American culture war. It is tearing this country apart at the seams, and the longer is allowed to do so the more irreversible the damage.
Less and less do I think this is a phase, a swing of the pendulum to one side. I am worried that we have witnessed permanent erosion of our democratic values. Can we win them back? I am unsure more now that ever. I wouldn’t bet agains American resilience, but it is terrifying when you start to entertain thoughts of all out chaos, violence and the sheer enmity between large swathes of the country.
Have we arrived?
So many moments over the last four years have felt like watersheds. It is useless to list them, which in and of itself is sobering, but inflection points seem to have come and gone with shocking ease. Maybe the accumulation of small moments is what ultimately puts a country over the brink. More than singular breaches of democratic norms, the total weight breaks the levee. If we are faced with another four years of this assault, can we really come out the other side without mortal wounds?
I’m not sure what is on the other side of tonight/tomorrow/this week. That’s a terrifying thought. It’s not about whether or not one party or another controls government. No, it’s about the survival of our country, violence in the streets and the legitimacy of our democracy. Those outcomes translate into real, tangible impacts on well-being, health and security. Ultimately, they impact your life.
I have spent a large part of my career studying unstable and violent places. That came with the luxury of contrasting chaos abroad with the shining city on a hill at home. Has that disparity ever been more in doubt? I didn’t think I would have to content with those forces at home.
With bated breath, We will wait and see.