Anxiety and Depression Quarantine Uncategorized

My Election 2020: The In-Between

I lie awake at 3:50 am on the morning of an American presidential election.

The cynic in me strongly fears the hate to come in the next 24 hours and beyond. But I have this tiny kernel of hope. And it’s not based on a candidate but on the thousands of voters that threaded through a parking lot on Saturday.

Early voting was open at two locations, and my husband and I chose one Saturday. Delayed by a bad car battery, we got to the polling place about thirty minutes after voting opened. We began on a sidewalk. Beside the main thoroughfare. Not even in the parking lot.

If you’ve ever read this site, you know I am an anxious person. There was not a single moment in that line when I felt worried about violence. Reflecting afterward, I thought maybe I should have been more on guard. Maybe.

The line snaked into the parking lot of a big building and paraded around two sides and a bit more before turning on its heel and winding all the way around the building. People chatted. Some for each candidate. But they kept their voices conversational. Dogs and toddlers endlessly entertained the masses. And people greeted acquaintances as the line doubled back.

Some dragged chairs along. Others, blankets or books or children. One in a pair would sometimes disappear only to re-emerge with fast food sustenance. People held the line for bathroom breakers.

I chatted about the Yankees with a man whose political beliefs couldn’t be further from my own. I know this because he spent a good while quietly spiraling into rhetoric with another voter directly behind me.

Five hours and forty-five minutes. That was how long we walked that line to cast our votes. And it was not miserable. It was not hostile. Indeed, it was frequently adorable, humorous, and celebratory without ever being openly for or against anyone.

Last Monday through Sunday, our home had power loss due to an ice storm. We weren’t alone. Many in that line were struggling with all manner of private hardships. The stressors of race (particularly for people of color), election, pandemic, and economy were all present.

From what I’ve read in the press, we should have been balanced on a blade. We should have been at fisticuffs and throats. We should have had guns cocked and been ready to loot.

Herein I find my hope for this election. Not in dire warnings or free press or a candidate. Certainly not in polls. But in the America in between. In there between left and right, between policies and politics, between caricatures of opposing vagaries—that’s where the ideals of America still live.

For places and people who experience violence today—and I know it could be any of us—you have my heart. But maybe the in-between will conquer, as it does, quietly, unobtrusively, without a fuss. Maybe the in-between will not only be the backbone of America today but its very flesh. One can hope.

Quarantine Uncategorized

Math is Hard

I have always found numbers more thorny than letters. Time makes very little practical sense to my brain, and I often forget how old I am. Numbers are, in many ways, something I actively avoid.

But I think they may be the only thing that can convince some Americans to change behavior now and for the foreseeable future.

As of this writing, 11,893 worldwide deaths from Covid-19 have been reported. Do you find that shocking? Shocking on the level of, say, the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995? That April day 168 people died. Shocking on the level of 9/11? That horrific day saw 2,977 deaths. Still the number does not yet approach the truly harrowing numbers lost to slave trade or holocaust or certain famines and revolts. That is true.

Still, I wonder if for some Covid-19 doesn’t seem so urgent to their daily lives because those 11,893 deaths did not happen in a single shocking and wicked act. Or because they largely remain nameless and faceless. Or because they are scattered over time and distance. I am uncertain.

Maybe if we had a graphic that represented those 11,893 humans in a stadium, an auditorium, or a field. Maybe then we could begin some neural connection between the disease and the loss of life. Numbers are hard, and these particular numbers are some of the hardest. Actively avoiding them will only deepen them to our collective loss.

The CDC reported that 2.8 million Americans died in 2017. If the worst-case scenario happens under Covid-19, 2.2 million Americans might die from this disease alone, nearly our 2017 annual death toll in this country. How many more will die across the globe? How many more will die from diseases that were not screened, like cancer, or treated because we failed to supply the medical infrastructure adequately? That is a number we cannot know.

Maybe if we had a graphic that represented 2.2 million humans in a single space. Maybe that would cement the price of movement, the power of containment, in our minds. I am uncertain.

The economic numbers are a different shape altogether. Just as mean. Just as potentially devastating. There is no easy answer. Containment and movement restriction come at a price, too. In jobs, in lives lost to domestic abuse, substance abuse, poverty, and mental and physical health failings, in economic sustainability.

It feels that we are in a King Solomon moment, except that any solution cuts the baby in half.

So perhaps at the end of it all, the numbers themselves are not the things that will make the decisions, the impacts, the neural connections. Perhaps the tipping point is simply what one can spiritually, emotionally, and mentally live with having done or not having done and what they cannot. Alas! No graphic can sort that one into a tidy representation. No number can drive it or explain it. I can only hope each of us examines it for ourselves.

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