It’s the morning of the election. Outside, it’s crisp and quiet, one of those clear days where weather feels permanent, like in a kid’s drawing with a house, a tree and a long-rayed sun in the corner. It’s a little ironic as I’m pretty sure most of us feel stormy instead, wondering what’s going to happen tonight and for the rest of the month.
I’ll admit I feel unqualified to write about the election, which is why I haven’t before. While I am a citizen, I am not from this country and feel like whatever I say will be laced with the bias of my birthplace.
And yet, how do I not write about the political landscape on this day? Do I proceed with the column about pencil sharpeners I’d had in mind? Do I pretend, as I have, that I’m bumping along happily during a pandemic, surrounded daily by political turmoil that doesn’t affect me?
That’s not honest. That would be like standing on the side of the Grand Canyon and electing not to look down. I am too tired — we all are — by the division that cuts through us to pretend.
And so I’ll tell you: I voted for Joe Biden. I will not use this space to disparage Donald Trump. I will not feel compelled to explain my choice.
But I can tell you: being blue where it’s red isn’t fun. I feel like I know too much about my friends and neighbors. And yet I don’t feel like I know them as much as I thought I did.
I also feel like they know too much about me. I’m the weirdo in the house all the time whose outings are drive-thru errands. Already, I was separated by motherhood and religion. Now, I don’t vote the same. It’s interesting feeling this way. The exposure — real or perceived — can be paralyzing.
I sound like I’m complaining and/or feeling sorry for myself. I promise I’m not. I’m really just trying to be honest and connect. How do we overlook these differences in each other and find common ground again? How do we not only suppress our judgment but remove it from the equation entirely?
God knows, I can get into the habit of being a judge. It can become a reflex, and I don’t like to see that change in myself. There was a time I could have written love letter after love letter to my adopted home. Especially when I worked at the newspaper in London, Ky., I was enthralled each day by the people I met, the things I saw and the soup beans I ate.
And there were times afterward, at home here in Somerset, where I located a center of myself that I had never found before, one where I felt immersed in friendship, confidence, gratitude.
Only rural Kentucky helped me discover these things. I might not have found them otherwise.
This past Sunday, I had just picked up my ClickList when a mile-long Trump Train came through on U.S. 27. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love a parade. It’s exciting. It makes me feel like I can tap into an essential part of what makes us human.
But I’ll tell you: I didn’t like this parade. It felt like an imposition. It made me feel even more alienated by where I live.
But there was that judgment again. Why was this an imposition instead of just a celebration? These were just cars and trucks with flags on them, right? Sure, maybe it wasn’t a homecoming float with a waving princess sitting on top of it, but shouldn’t I both embrace and respect the political freedom it represented? Even if it didn’t represent my politics?
I tell you, I think the answer is yes.
Asking these kinds of questions is the only way I can think of for how we can come back to each other post-election. To me, they’re a way to create a pause in the center of a judgment — not just a comma but a full em dash — where we give ourselves time to make a decision. Time to be open or time to pick a side.
Every time I think of that, I think of a friend of mine whose diplomacy helps define her. No matter the topic of conversation, she’s able to see both sides of it. Not in a devil’s advocate kind of way either, but in a way where she openly, steadfastly posits circumstances that might explain someone’s actions or a thought process that might have led to a certain outcome.
Every time I witness it, I’m amazed by it. Sometimes it annoys me because I just want her to take my side, but I’m always impressed by it and I do envy it. And yet, she must have to work to maintain that habit.
So maybe I should try to replace judgment with re-examination instead. Maybe if I do it enough, it will become my new go-to. And maybe it’s time that I try to dig back down into this place, find the roots I once admired before the sap of 2020 gummed everything up.
Maybe if I do those things, the picture of the house, the tree, that permanent sun can be something that’s mine again.