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.