Recovering from E-motion Sickness

Four years ago, I dropped my son off at school, drove home, sat down on the couch, and cried. I had opened the windows to let in the crisp, autumn air, and I could hear the pre-recorded “Wee Sing” version of the national anthem crackling from the elementary school loudspeakers down the street. It was followed, like it had been every morning before, by the child singers reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and I listened numbly as they got to “liberty and justice for all”.

“But that’s not really true, is it?”

Like many other people that day, I was in utter disbelief that so many Americans had been duped by a two-bit conman regurgitating propaganda methods straight out of pre-WWII Germany. We learned about this is high school. This was a whole unit of projects in Ms. Jackson’s class. Blue stars on red and white construction paper. Miniature victory gardens planted in egg cartons. The Diary of Anne Frank. Ringing any bells?

“Make America Great Again” = “Make Germany Great Again” It was the entire premise of the Nazi platform. Blame someone else for your failings. Dehumanize people so it’s easier to treat them like vermin to be caged and exterminated.

To me, it was obvious. I didn’t think I needed to talk to anyone about the election because I couldn’t see how anyone would not realize how toxic this campaign was. That was a mistake.

A few hours later, my fiancĂ© came home for lunch. I walked out to meet him at the end of the driveway, and he smiled and gave me a hug. He was happy that I’d come out to meet him, and had no idea why I was so sad. He’d voted for Trump, and for him, it was just another day.

When we’d first started dating, we’d agreed not to talk about politics, mostly because political discussions with my ex had always been so horrible. That was a mistake.

Thoughts of escape and panic raced through my head. How would I get this man out of my house? How would I detangle our finances? He’d just moved out from Georgia to live with my son and I in California, and we’d finally gotten settled in. Was it over so soon? How could I possibly stay with someone who’d endorsed a man so vile?

I cried all day, sick to my stomach, unsure of what any future would hold. I remembered the German people, the ones who stood by while their neighbors donned swastikas. Too shocked, too scared, waiting for it to pass. I didn’t want to be one of those people, and I knew well enough that it never “just goes away”.

Fortunately, my fiancĂ© felt the same way. When he came home from work, he asked me to tell him everything that he didn’t know. He admitted that he had only voted for Trump because he’d always voted Republican before, and he hadn’t seen or heard about ANY of the things I’d told him. He doesn’t use social media, we don’t have a TV, and he barely has time to read a paper or listen to the radio at his construction job. When you hear about “undecided voters”, it’s not always people who can’t tell the difference between a brain surgeon and a circus clown. Sometimes it’s just someone who has their nose smashed so hard against the grindstone that free time is too precious to spend on Facebook.

We agreed that we should talk about politics, because “politics” isn’t code for “uncomfortable topics”: it’s the language of human rights. Having this open dialog with my partner has been the only way I’ve survived the past four years. My autism is the “amplified empathy” variety, and even though I have my own equality battles to deal with, I spend far more energy trying to help other less fortunate than me. My husband always has my back, even if it’s something as simple as making sure I have coffee every morning.

This Saturday morning, I was standing at my dining room table, preparing dice orders to ship. We’d put the Etsy stores on break for the whole week, but I hadn’t been able to get anything done past the election anxiety. When the notification popped up on my phone that Pennsylvania had been called for Biden, I was scared that I’d read it wrong. I had to double check on four different news sites to make sure.

All of my drained energy came back. It was as if my brain had discovered five hundred missing spoons under a dusty cabinet marked “hope”. We got victory coffee, and had fried chicken for the first time in a year. We watched the people dancing in the streets all over the world, even though our own town was grumbling into their MAGA hats.

There is still a pandemic, and it’s getting worse. There are still kids in cages with little hope of locating their parents. There is still a bunch of bullies crying foul, and desperation is a volatile compound. We know there is still much more to do, but somehow, it all feels easier now. – K

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