An election day diversion

It has finally arrived. Today is election day in the United Sates. We’ve been told that there is a good chance that we won’t know the results of the voting when we go to bed tonight. Still, I’m sure that I won’t be able to keep from checking for results as the evening goes on. It lacks some of the sense of a holiday that election days past held. As I did in the primary election, I took advantage of our state’s early voting to avoid being part of a crowd. The pandemic is out of control in our state and it isn’t a good time to be waiting in lines and standing close to strangers. I’m part of what is a record-shattering wave of voters who voted early, voted by mail, or otherwise cast their votes before election day. I’m pretty sure this makes the work of pollsters difficult. On the other hand, we have learned not to trust the polls, so there is a heightened sense drama about the day. It doesn’t help that the past four years have been among the most deeply divided years in our history and this year’s presidential election is one of the most divisive campaigns ever. It doesn’t help that there have already been cases of violence. A lot of people are carrying weapons. It doesn’t help that one party has consistently pursued suppression of the vote as a political tactic. It doesn’t help that there are already active lawsuits seeking to block counting votes that have already been cast. I used to look forward to election day. I approach today with a slight sense of dread.

Whatever happens, it will be our duty to reach out to those with whom we disagree. The unity of these states depends on each of us finding ways to work around our political differences and work together to provide for the health, safety and well being of all of the people of this great country. It is incumbent on all of us to set aside the division and hate speech and pick up the cause of unity. We need to see those on the other side as human beings with hopes, fears, aspirations, and dreams that are all their own. We need to understand how much we need each other.

But you don’t need my election day sermon. You’ve been reading and thinking and living through this bit of history alongside me.

So, I’m turning to a bit of escapism at the beginning of what is likely to be a long day.

illustration from old magazine
In the process of sorting out the last of the boxes in our home before our final move, we’ve sorted through a few papers that came from our parents’ houses. Among those papers was a magazine article that had been torn out of a family magazine. The date of the article is from our teenage years. The photograph on the back of one of the pages clearly shows clothing that we recognize from the era. The article is titled “What is a Mother?” It reports the reflections of early elementary students. One of our parents kept the article because she (and I’m sure it was a she in this case) was touched by the sentiments of the children who contributed to it. Perhaps there was a touch of nostalgia because her children were now older than the ones quoted in the article. Perhaps she intended to show it to someone else. This person was known to keep a lot of articles cut from newspapers and magazines. When we were cleaning out her house after her death, I was asked to take the contents of a drawer and put them into a box to be sorted later. Perhaps it is one of the boxes we’ve been sorting in the past week. The drawer contained all kinds of things: a few financial records and receipts, a bit of correspondence, and a lot of articles clipped from newspapers and magazines. At the very top of the drawer, easy for me to read as I opened the drawer was a newspaper clipping with the title, “How to avoid clutter.” It gave us a laugh.

from 68 clipping
This article is like a lot of articles that contain things that children have written. Usually the writings of children are part of a school assignment, collected by a teacher and turned over to a journalist who picks out a few and publishes them. Those in Rapid City are used to the local newspaper’s annual issue that contains children’s instructions for preparing a Thanksgiving turkey. The practice is a bit exploitative as the children don’t receive anything for their contributions. The newspaper or magazine copyrights the material and retains all of the rights to the work of the children. The articles don’t use the full names of the children, so they can’t be easily identified. But such articles make us smile and we enjoy them. I know at least one person who kept a few of those articles so that someone would read them even after the children had grown up and become adults.

Most of the paragraphs of the children are cute and express love and care for their mothers. There is remarkable understanding of some of the sacrifices that mothers make for their children, cleaning up messes, keeping things organized and caring for children when they don’t feel well. One of the children, however, wrote his contribution on a day when he wasn’t especially pleased with his mother. Instead of answering the question with words of praise, he uses it as an opportunity to air his grievances. I’ve never met him, but I like Gary. His honesty is refreshing. His contribution stands out. His genuineness comes through even though he is a bit blunt.

I think of how Gary would be these days. He’s close to 60 now if some accident or illness didn’t claim his life prematurely. Perhaps he has just voted or is preparing to vote today. Maybe he wouldn’t vote the same as I have. He’s still a complex human with all kinds of ideas and feelings. He’s still worth listening to and understanding. I hope that we can still smile at our fiends and neighbors in the days to come even when we are aware that we disagree.

I like to think that Gary allowed his children to have a frog.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!