I remember when Colorado was a red state. It wasn’t so long ago.
When I was first able to vote, I cast my ballot knowing it likely wouldn’t make a bit of difference. It would just be lost in the bloodbath.
But now, Colorado doesn’t even seem to be a battleground. It is a lovely, light blue.
When I was 18 years old, I couldn’t imagine this.
Things have changed.
It’s hard not to feel a bit downhearted waiting for the news to play out. Because this doesn’t look like a landslide Biden win. We are holding our breaths, seeing how the states play out, one by one.
No matter the outcome, there are still millions of Americans that want the current jobholder (I don’t even want to write his name) as their President. They feel in some way that he represents their values – he represents them.
Whenever I get confused about how America can be the way it is, I remind myself that it was founded by a bunch of people who wanted the right to bear arms and less taxes – most of whom were too religiously extreme for the places they came from.
This may be history, but it is still our heritage.
Part of me was hoping for the blue wave, because it is so unthinkable to me how anyone can look past locking children in cages, or rape, or theft, or… the list is endless.
I try to remember that people on the other side feel the same way – that it is unthinkable to them that someone else can have other values.
On the one hand, these voters are endorsing cruelty. But there is a reason people are drawn to Trump. He represents ‘me-first’ politics – a push for individual self-interest instead of collective connection.
We all have both of these pieces inside us.
I went to the post office this week, and there was a homeless man sitting outside. He talked to each of the customers as they waited in line, asking if we had money to spare. The woman behind me said she would give him something on the way out – but once inside, she struck up a conversation with another woman about how it’s really the government who needs to sort it out, not her – “I feel sorry for him, but every penny counts.”
I understand how she feels. For all I know, she’s panicking about how she’s going to keep her own lights on. I got to give myself a little pat on the back for getting this man some drinks and snacks he requested – but I was in the fortunate position that getting these bits wasn’t a hardship for me.
Was she a bad person for feeling the way she did? And acting in according with these feelings? I don’t think so. It’s much more complicated than that.
I’m not entirely sure why this story kept coming to mind when thinking about the election, but I think it’s that I can’t bear to write off half of America as bad people, even though I am horrified by the Republican platform.
Some Republican voters are simply evil, and racist, and violent. But I think for others, the self-interest piece has kicked into overdrive. I have to imagine that by voting for the embodiment of narcissism, it feels like prioritising values of one’s own self-interest, even if the policy platform isn’t prioritising taking care of people.
I’m not a practiced activist, or a political expert. I’m feeling my way through this rather than working from a place of intellectual authority, and as a writer, I’m always drawn to look at the grey areas, the hypocrisies, the complications.
I am horrified at the conservative agenda that wants to limit people’s ability to live their lives – threatening civil liberties with marriage, women’s bodies, and in so many other ways. I feel like this control is wrong and coercive. But if we think of government as establishing the kind of communities we want to live in, I can start to grasp why these people feel they have the right – perhaps even the responsibility – to exert this kind of control.
What kind of America do we want to live in? There is no consensus.
So often, we don’t even agree with the other political side on what the big problems are – let alone on the solutions to them.
Politically, we need people who are ready to fight – but on a personal level, I also find myself wanting to ask, is there a way out of these culture wars that doesn’t involve fighting? Is it possible to be like water – slippery, and cool, and nourishing – slowly carving a canyon into the rock face of outdated values?
Fights will happen in courtrooms and government buildings. But in our daily lives, as we all rub up against near or distant neighbours with very different values, is there a way to reach for the humanity in these people, instead of seeing them as the enemy?
Sometimes change happens in sweeping bursts – like the way the coronavirus has transformed our world. But more often it happens inch by tiny inch, especially where people’s hearts are concerned. And cycles repeat, making it feel like any change has been lost.
But seeing that red state turn blue gives me hope.
And given the current state of the world, we’re all going to need as much hope as we can get.
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash