This is it. This is the last day we have to live through without knowing the outcome of the most grueling, shocking, norm-busting, insulting, threatening, divisive and inspiring election we have ever known. The fork in this road is one that would surely confound the most confounded and beloved folk personality of the last century, the great baseball player and coach Yogi Berra who famously said, “When you see a fork in the road, take it.”
I think of my friends in foreign lands, the ones who already have to live with vampire governments who suck the life out of intelligent, inspired, energetic and visionary youth. I think of the ex-pats I know who have sought refuge in comfortable lives abroad, seemingly (or deliberately) divorced from these momentous events as if they are immune to the consequences. I think of so many oblivious, uninformed and uninterested citizens of these foreign countries who have no clue what could possibly be unleashed by the voters of this nation, a Pandora’s box of ill-advised and barely considered impulsive and, to many, irrational policies that could have momentous long-term and quite possibly violent consequences for them personally.
The meme embodied by one candidate by which he has lived his life and which exemplifies so many of his followers in this election boils down to a maddeningly simple, crude expression: What about me?
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.—–Voltaire
What about me, indeed? If there ever was a nugget, the core impulse capsulizing the entire universe of samsara, Buddha’s First Noble Truth, from which arises the entire universe of suffering we inflict upon ourselves and each other, it would be this. What about me? The candidate has lived it his entire life. He embodies it like no other. If infuses everything he thinks and says, everything he does. He projects it upon the nation. The nation has responded. So many are seduced by it. That is the truth and the fearsome and loathsome beauty of it. One could even step back in awe of the purity of who Donald Trump really is. So many fallen into it, resonating with it as the core organizing principle of their lives. They are living by it, violently protecting their right to be driven by it at the expense of everyone and everything else who might ask the opposite question, including the very biosphere upon which their lives depend: “What about you?”
So, here in the most powerful nation on earth, the most influential, we are acting out this great human drama between self-orientation and altruism. Will the Other be an object of our fear or our love? This is the question hanging on the lips of the entire world today: will I become America’s enemy or America’s friend? That is what we are deciding.
It is 5 am on election day. I am rising fully formed from my troubled slumber to untangle myself, to whatever degree may be possible on this day, from the knot of emotions, perceptions, motivations, responses, judgments and visions that have swirled around me every day of my involvement. I circled into it slowly, becoming acquainted with a clot of millennials, huddled in the central campaign office in one of the most important locations upon which the outcome of this election hinges, Durham, North Carolina. We couldn’t fully know that 4-6 months ago. Or may be some did. As I became more involved, it became increasingly clear approaching election day, more and more realized we were indeed at the center of this maelstrom. Now history hangs on our every breath, on our every action; and the question, have we done enough?
The energy, clarity, drive and sheer reservoir of devotion to this cause that they have all demonstrated is beyond description. Yes, to this geezer, some of it can simply be chalked up to youth. But even more, they exhibit a familiar and compelling expression of a natural, even inborn, integrated vision, instantly understood and now an instinctive source defining their presence in the world, the choices they make, the associations they cultivate, everything they project.
This is the last day, the very last day to greet, welcome, direct and manage volunteers, to look them in the eye and thank them for appearing, for crafting a rewarding experience, to cheer in gratitude, make further requests and record the results. Yesterday we had 120 phone bankers, 90 people knocking on doors. As before, they are coming together as families, as travelers from Baltimore and DC. They complete one walk pack and come back for another. They finish a phone list and take another. One attorney came in the morning and close up with us after making calls in the hallway, sitting on the marble floor, ALL DAY.
Today the storm begins at the opening bell, new canvassers coming with children, immigrants, seasoned activists, young people, elders, all colors and flavors. The same energy, the same motivation.
In the words of George Takei, today:
You need only take measure of the passion of America’s youth ― more cosmopolitan, more diverse, more rooted in science, more aware of their responsibilities as stewards of this Earth than any generation before them ― to regain confidence in our national future. Look to them. We will win.”
After the first three hours, we already have over 100 people knocking doors and thirty making calls. And already, we have reports that the county computers are giving false indications that people showing up at the polls “have already voted.” Consequently, the computerized check-in system has been replaced with a manual check-in against the paper voter rolls.
Today is also the first day we embark on and re-engage the new and possibly even more challenging and prolonged journey with no end, the renewal and healing of a wounded nation, seeing itself reflected in the anguish of economic insecurity, being left behind, unheard, powerless against the juggernaut of Business As Usual that overruns everything in its path.
But first, about two hours in a hot tub, a couple hours of deep and searching massage, a few hours in a pool, getting lost in someone else’s eyes, food with actual nutritional value and I’ll be good. I promise.