Right now, I’m thinking of my last refreshing interaction with a stranger. With the toxic atmosphere that is in abundance today along with having to wear pesky but life-saving masks, it’s difficult. A body needs that type of interaction where you leave feeling like you’ve just departed a warm embrace. Those are the small moments of eye contact with a stranger on the street, punctuated with a gentle smile. Those are the spontaneous moments that trigger a quick exchange that leads to a laugh that leads to a lingering smile you carry all the way back to your car.
In thinking about it, I realize that it wasn’t very long ago that I had one of those experiences. I had made what was supposed to be a quick trip to the grocery store. As I stood in line, my husband FaceTimed me to say that we needed snacks because “We don’t have any snacks. Get some Cheez-Its and some beef jerky.” he joked. We never buy beef jerky but the man behind me, who must have been a beef jerky fan, said through his mask “I’m with him!” I turned to him and laughed while exaggerating the squint of my eyes to overemphasize my amusement behind the mask. I told him not to worry about holding my spot when he kindly offered as I left the line in search of snacks. That was actually only two days ago. It was the day I voted.
That morning, my husband and I got out our voting guides, our mail-in ballots, and our laptops and spent several hours going over the local candidates and the propositions. It was very important for me that we really read and understood as much about the propositions as we possibly could outside of the ads that collectively intrude on the latest news of yet another tweet from President Trump.
Going over the propositions isn’t an easy task. I began by mentally settling myself on my foundational principle: That which is going to be best for those with the least–and worked my way from there through the purposely confusing language. My husband and I talked a bit about each one and found that we were usually on the same side when we’d bubble in our choice.
It’s kind of a lovely thing really. It’s a moment to escape the constant assault of the cephalopod that is cable news and social media. Their tentacles latch on to our compulsive nature, the need to be informed, and the desire to connect, so pervasively that turning it off or deleting an app conjures feelings of absurdity and anxiety. Those several hours of sitting, undistracted, with just the text, and giving thought to the implications of impacts raised by those charged with writing the pros and cons, along with a bit of sleuthing to understand, as much as possible, the hidden hands behind all the pieces, was an investment of time that paid off with the feeling of honoring those who fought and died for my right to have my say.
For the past, almost four years, we’ve endured the toxicity, the destructive policies, and divisive behavior of a man who makes us question our own connectedness to our fellow human beings. A man who makes no secret of his self-absorption and bigotry, and has reinvigorated the disease of racism in this country to such a degree that Covid is merely the cherry on top of his noxious administration. An administration that has us eyeing strangers and summing them up along party lines, and labeling strangers as idiots if they aren’t on our side and wonderful compatriots if they are. Of all of the things that President Trump lauds about being the only one to ever do, the most astounding feat of his leadership that nobody has done since the civil war is split the country in half, disrupting the spontaneous connections that make us all know that we are one. While you can easily glean which way I chose to vote in the Presidential race, you can also glean that my choice is not without the deepest consideration for my fellow citizens, especially those with the least.
The one thing I am looking forward to in the next four years is that the U.S. begins to build back better our connectedness to one another and to continue the work of creating a country where everyone is welcomed, everyone is valued, and everyone is safe.