So many friends from around the globe have reached out to get a read on how things really are in the states and how my husband and I are feeling in the lead up to this never-ending election cycle that feels as though it’s persisted for five fucking years already. Because. It. Actually. Has. In short – I’m a bit freaked out for folks who don’t have the privilege, support and resources that I do. A more in-depth assessment, however, might reveal a slight glimmer of hope.
Going back to election day in 2016, I’m haunted by this incredibly vivid memory. I remember feeling so excited to see the US continue to move towards progress, carrying on the legacy Obama had left by the first woman President, no less. I remember walking around my neighborhood that day, spotting elated young people rocking their first ‘I Voted’ sticker or running into friends and neighbors at a local polling station taking selfies and celebrating. I couldn’t help but linger outside as people came and went to cast their vote, unable to participate as a permanent resident but desperate to soak in the historical moment unfolding before me.
I remember stopping at a grocery store to pick up some election night provisions, and as a Mexican American woman rung up my items, I asked her if she had voted already. To which she replied, she didn’t need to vote because her daughter had voted and was the proxy for their entire family. Didn’t need to vote.
Walking home that night, as the sun began to set and more sticker-donning voters continued to stream by me, life switched to slow-mo. I remember telling myself to savor the moment as this feeling of hope and elation was about to expire.
Here we are, four years later, and I’m left to wonder just how to feel. Real talk – support for the Democratic hopefuls in our community feels a bit lackluster. Bernie Sanders and ‘I’m With Her’ signs literally still litter the lawns of our surrounding neighborhood. Signals of support for you know who are prevalent in Bev Hills, Orange County, the high desert and beyond. We may be a “blue state” but with many pockets persistent in pushing a conservative agenda. A vote for Biden/Harris is a vote against the other guy, simple as that. I just hope that’s enough to compel people to vote in their favor.
Early voting numbers have been record-shattering, and I haven’t come across one single friend, family member or colleague who hasn’t cast their vote early. This gives me hope! Even in jurisdictions where the systemic breakdown of this electoral process has tried to prevent people from voting, folks are sticking it out, waiting for hours, showing up with snacks and camping chairs and friends to hold their place in line when nature calls. It’s inspiring and infuriating at the same time, that anyone in a country that hangs their hat on freedom and democracy should ever have to endure this type of outright discrimination, but here we are. The grim underbelly of this nation exposed and ripe for reconstruction.
But let me get to part where I tell you how much I love living in the US. As a Canadian, at times, I can come at it from a pretty judgmental standpoint. Like, just do it like we do it, for fuck sake. All of it – our electoral system, immigration, healthcare – the lot. We have our own injustices to bear and are far from perfect, but I’m grateful Canada continues to feel like a place of progress. However, some of the values we’ve executed fairly well are indeed American-inspired values. Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! The ideal (and I use that word, because we know said ideal has not been equitable for all) that you can come to the US and carve out your own path, regardless of where you came from, is what makes this country so special. An ideal Canada has adopted but done a much better job at implementing.
Culturally speaking, I don’t think I need to rattle off the immense list of American exports that have touched and inspired the world. Geographically speaking, I can’t tell you how fortunate I feel to live somewhere within driving distance to one of the oldest growth forests on earth and the driest desert in North America. A short bike ride away from a protected bay abundant with sea life and in the epicenter of the entertainment industry. US of A, you are a complex beast but one I can’t resist calling home base for a while longer because I love it here.
It’s a tense time, no doubt about it. But I can’t help but feel hopeful because, for better or much much worse, that’s the foundation in which this nation was founded, wasn’t it? Hope.
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