Years ago, when we lived in St. Louis, we took our kids to the Six Flags amusement park, home of the “Screamin’ Eagle” roller coaster. Unlike newer ones today, the Screamin’ Eagle was wooden and pretty rough on a middle-aged body. Emotionally, over this past week, I’ve felt like I was on that old roller coaster, being tossed and turned, up and down, and in some pain. I suspect I’m not alone.
On election day, I grew excited and anxious for the polls to close and the returns to be posted. As the evening continued, I was repeatedly disappointed with some of the races that, according to the polls, would be closer. Full disclosure: I supported most of the democratic candidates for many reasons, but, as I’ve previously written, I believe they would better support our planet. By the time I went to bed that evening, I felt very resigned that perhaps not all, but much, had been lost. I was sad and I’m convinced the polls were wrong because of a phenomenon known as “Social Desirable Bias” – the tendency of survey respondents to answer questions in a manner that they believe will be viewed favorably by others. I suspect many Trump supporters are reluctant to admit to others, they support him.
The next day, Wednesday, provided ongoing uncertainty as to the outcome of more of the races, particularly the presidential contest. And as the week continued, I began to see some glimmer of hope – perhaps there would be some positive outcomes. But simultaneously, I felt disappointment that so many voters – over 70 million Americans – had chosen to support a candidate who cares little about our planet, or the people in this country. I also was concerned as news reports detailed acts of violence, attempts to stop or disrupt the vote counting, and the continuing, unsubstantiated, false claims of election fraud. It made me wonder if the wheels of our government might just fall off!
But as the week continued, I drew inspiration as I watched the dedication of poll workers and vote counters, and other honorable government officials defending the transparent vote counting processes that were underway. I was reminded that more people voted in this election than had ever voted in America. And the majority of the popular vote did not support giving the current administration more time in office.
I was reminded that individuals can still make a difference in America. That’s a luxury people in many countries around the world do not enjoy; we can and should be proud of that. I was inspired to read about Stacey Abrams’ initiative in Georgia to build a well-funded network of organizations that highlighted voter suppression in the state and inspired an estimated 800,000 residents to register to vote. Abrams narrowly lost the governor’s race in Georgia two years ago, and recognized the impact of voter suppression. Her efforts and success, stand in stark contrast to the efforts by Republicans to suppress the vote in so many states and local communities across our nation.
I was also inspired by the story of an individual who, in 2016, decided to have pizzas delivered to people – strangers – waiting in long lines to vote. According to the story in the N.Y. Times:
“In 2016 Scott Duncombe, a software developer in Portland, Ore., saw on the news that Cleveland residents had to wait hours in long lines to vote. His heart went out to them. In Oregon, there are never any lines because everybody votes by mail. So, he called up a pizza place in Cleveland and ordered a bunch of food to raise their spirits. The effort grew. This year, the volunteer-driven nonpartisan project, Pizza to the Polls, has delivered more than 53,000 pizzas to polling places in 48 states. About 30 staff members and volunteers on Election Day were scanning for texts and social media posts from voters at polling sites with long lines. Their fleet of trucks, with “Democracy is delicious” printed across the side, also handed out free milkshakes, burgers and empanadas.”
These examples exemplify what an individual – regardless of position – can do to make America better. As a people, we are better than what our government has demonstrated over these past 4 years.
On Saturday, while I was enjoying a news blackout, I received messages from both my kids that all the major news networks had announced Biden/Harris received the 270 threshold of electoral college votes. I felt a sense of relief and hope for the future of our country. But my greatest joy was thinking about what this means for my grandchildren who will inherit the world we adults leave behind.
This week has also reminded me that collectively, we Americans, can make a difference in the future of our planet. Everyone might not be on board just yet. Many see the climate crisis as something far away, in place and time. And there are still climate deniers, and supporters of the fossil fuel industry that will continue to opposed efforts for a healthy planet. But as more and more people learn what is at stake, and what is needed to address it, we can realize change. Significant changes have occurred with other issues that initially were controversial, like seat belts and smoking cigarettes. It could happen with masks to deal with the pandemic. Those of us who have children, owe it to them, and their children to live in a sustainable world and accordingly, we have an obligation to do what we can.
These past four years have been difficult for me but today, looking forward to a new administration, I’m reminded of what Martin Luther King said on April, 3, 1968, in his last public speech before he was assassinated: “Only when it’s dark enough, can you see the stars.”
I appreciate the obstacles the Biden administration will face as it initiates steps to protect and save our planet. We live in a democracy, and a very divided society, in which agreement among competing positions must be achieved before we move forward. As I watched the speeches of Kamala Harris and Joe Biden Saturday night, I was moved to tears that perhaps our country could unite and address some of the most pressing problems in our country. I found myself hopeful, that we might just see some stars. It’s been quite a week.