I am meeting a former student of mine on Saturday to help her with some career planning. A current student emailed me yesterday asking if we could have a Zoom meeting to talk about a recommendation letter for a law school application. On Monday, I have a call with a friend’s daughter who is interested in an internship next summer at a local nonprofit on whose board I serve.
I am luckier than most. Because these things help me think about next year, you know, the one after this awful one, with a renewed sense of hope. I expect it to be a long winter but next year will be better.
For those of us who toil in the political world, this year is ending in a little over two weeks with the close of what is now known as “election season.” I am old enough to remember when long lines to vote only happened on Election Day and only in a few places. Those lines would form during rush hour, making the nine to five crowd late to the office that Tuesday. Or dinner might be late that evening because of the procrastination bunch.
This year, waiting times as long as twelve hours is what eager voters faced as early voting began in Georgia and Texas. Lines have been long in Indianapolis too, though the wait times have not been absurd like they have been down south. That’s what happens when people are excited to vote. It’s awful, right?
Maybe. Imagine how good it will feel for those who had to come up with a “voting plan,” pack a lawn chair, a couple of meals, and something good to read if they get the outcome they seek. That day will be far more meaningful to those who had to work at it this year than possibly any year before.
There are plenty of people voting this year who have already fought enough for not just their right to vote, but simply for fair accommodations. So, women, you go to the front of the line, black women first. Old white guys like me to the back. I have never been targeted for disenfranchisement. In fact, I think when I go vote next week, I will wave some people ahead of me in line for that very reason.
I have hope that this election will be the one that inspires us to do it better next time. I actually thought that in 2016 too, but for some reason the victors didn’t want to improve our systems much these last four years. This time, that is likely to change.
The pandemic complicated things, and that won’t magically disappear next year. We have plenty of work ahead of us on that. I have hope that our work will be filled with a sense of purpose though, and not simply a collection of individuals struggling through their individual hardships, void of any sense of collective direction. That alone would help us all cope, even if the daily challenges will seem painfully similar.
If you had asked me two years ago that I needed to give up concerts, sporting events and eating out for a year to be a part of saving 100,000 American lives, I would have agreed. I don’t think that makes me special one bit. Ask me that same question now, and my answer is still “yes.”
Next year, the mood will be different. I don’t expect our elected leaders and scientists to be openly feuding with each other about a productive public health strategy. I am hopeful the scientists will instruct, and new leaders will take that instruction and lead with it.
I am hopeful the Proud Boys, Qanon and all of their brethren will find more productive things to do with their energy. If they want to hate something, hate disease or hunger. If they want to be paranoid about something, be paranoid about limited access to quality public education. No one needs it more.
Donald Trump refused to take responsibility for a false retweet about Osama bin Laden’s death at his town hall Thursday night, earning him a comparison as the “crazy uncle.” Almost simultaneously, a Trump operative described Joe Biden’s town hall as an episode of “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.” That was intended to be an insult.
The young people I get to help give me optimism for the future, as do those who persist in ludicrous voting lines.
The pandemic will definitely make this winter a tough one. I am actually looking forward to it.