On an Unrelated Topic

That post from two days ago was going to be a lot longer than it was. In fact, it was a lot longer, but about a third of the way down I found I had made the jump from gratitude for what was going on around the farm to the topic that has been increasingly occupying my waking hours: the upcoming election.

I’ve got friends from across the political spectrum, and I generally try to keep this blog all-inclusive. I believe that what we have in common is much greater than what divides us, and I try to dwell in that space of commonalities in my writing. I didn’t want to let a blog post celebrating the bounty of the well-tended earth devolve into partisan politics.

This is a different blog post.

But before I dive into it, I’m going to open by wishing everyone, a day late, a happy Stanislav Petrov Day. He and the weight of his fateful, prudent decision remained unknown until 15 years after 1983 Soviet nuclear false alarm incident, and he remains unknown to much of the world even today. So even a day late, let us remember how the measured, thoughtful actions of even a single person can change the course of all life on earth.

So, back to my rant.

You may recall from the start that I didn’t want to run a farm. Sure, I fell in love with this land and wanted to find a way to save it from getting plowed under and turned into a retirement community or yet another Pinot Noir vineyard. I’d heard stories from the kids and grandkids of people who grew up here and wanted the place where those memories happened to be preserved so that another generation could have memories like that, and another after them. I wanted it to exist as an open space where farmers, young and old, could gather and build community and nourish the earth. I wanted all of that to happen; I just didn’t particularly want to be the one to make it happen – I had all sorts of other stuff I wanted to do.

And yet, here I am. Sometimes if you want something to happen, you have to cowboy up and try to make them happen. Because the rains are coming. Because the berm needs to be tarped, the beans need to be brought in. Because we’ve got probably the most fraught election since 1864 coming up in 37 days.

So lately, I’ve been throwing myself into the upcoming election. I’m terrified at how polarized and disconnected I see the two halves of our country, and yes, I think we’ve gotten to the point where, more than at any time since 1864 we have two completely disconnected halves. Only this time around, they’re intermingled, both halves living on the same street, but in two different worlds.

For my half, I’m speechless that we have a president who believes that windmills cause cancer, that you can cure a virus by injecting disinfectant, whose brags about assaulting women are well-documented. A president who asserts that the Constitution only applies to other people (“that phony emoluments clause”*). Who has called the free press, enshrined in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, an enemy of the people, and asserted executive privileges that would make Putin blush. A president who has just floated the idea that he’ll be the judge of whether the election is tainted, and does not intend to leave office peacefully if he believes it is.

This last one is over the top, even for him and appears to have even our military worried. Because he is a man who seems to believe – I think he honestly believes – that whatever he wishes were true, actually is. He seems to actually believe this, and bends the full force of government to try and cover his tracks. The case for this is writ large in one word: Sharpiegate, but it has played out in every theater of American discourse. I don’t even know where to begin, from climate change (“I don’t think science knows.”) to Russian disinformation and subversion of our democracy (“No Collusion! I’m the victim!”), to COVID (“It’ll just go away”), to any one of his disgraced former handlers (“I barely knew the guy, but I hear he’s a loser.”).

*(Recall that the presidential oath of office contains one specific affirmation: to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.)

Conservative or liberal politics aside, government overreach or not, social safety nets or liberty, taxes, whatever – I believe there is more than ample evidence that this man is delusional, and a fundamental danger to the continuation of our republic. He is a King Canute who wants to prove that he can hold back the tides, even if it drowns every one of us.

Okay, enough of a rant. You get the idea where I’m coming from, and have no doubt you’ve already made up your mind whether I am a fellow concerned citizen or just another “libtard.” If the latter, please forgive my outburst – I hope we can still talk about airplanes and farming and travel once this is over. But you now see why maybe this topic wasn’t necessarily the best thing to pivot to in a blog post about picking up windfall apples, don’t you?

So what am I going to do about it? I’ve quit Facebook, so I can’t engage in endless arguments with trollbots. We’ve given just about all we can financially to the relevant campaigns and chucked frightening amounts of money at efforts to protect voter rights (that are under astounding partisan attacks) and ensure that the election will be safe and secure.

In 2016, we also donated whole bunch to campaigns we supported. I voted, I did everything I could, right? Of course not.

In 2018, I did more. I joined a phone bank. Got out of my comfort zone. I got on a bus to the Central Valley to get out the vote by knocking on doors. Got waaaay out of my comfort zone. I stretched my comfort zone a little more and drove out again the next week. Next time I was in Washington, I knocked on doors there, too.

Going door-to-door felt like a way to transcend the panic to put all that adrenaline my brain was producing into something other than generating ulcers. It worked. I didn’t get ulcers, and every candidate I called for or knocked on doors for came from behind to win their seat. We “flipped the House.” Made me feel like I’d actually done something. Been a larger part of the democratic process.

Of course, going door-to-door isn’t particularly practical this time around, but if I sit on my hands, I’m going to go nuts.

So I signed up for a phone bank, calling older Texans and encouraging them to check that their voter registrations haven’t been purged, and urging them to request their mail-in ballots. Most people hung up on me the moment they heard my decidedly northern accent. But I got through to a few. And I’ve been writing letters – hand writing letters and putting them in envelopes with stamps, to “unlikely voters” in Florida, encouraging them to get the heck out there and vote like their lives depend on it. Because I think they do. Last week I signed up to do a “text bank” – Arizona, this time – which feels much less scary than a phone bank, because you can pause to think about what you want to say back.

And, trying to leverage something I’m nominally good at, I’ve signed up with Ragtag.org and the Movement Cooperative to provide software tools and tech support for campaigns I care about.

Maybe none of this is going to make a difference. Maybe it will save the world. To be fair to those who believe Trump is the only one who can save us, maybe what I’m doing will help end the world. I don’t think it will, and I’m willing to put as much time and sweat as I can into getting him out of office. Because I have serious doubts of whether our country’s democratic institutions can survive another four years. And if we fail, I’m going to spend every day of the rest of my life wondering if I could have done more.

This is your country. This is your future at stake. Don’t just click through on the news and lament it. Get out there and do something. It’ll help with the anxiety and ulcers. And if I’m right, you might just save the world.

10 responses to “On an Unrelated Topic

    • Thank you! I’ve also just signed up for postcardstovoters.org, which feels like it may be more satisfying than VF (you write a whole card, not just fill in the blanks), and will report back. Not sure there are good numbers for which approach is more effective, but am going to try this one for a bit.

      There have been a couple of VF “virtual letter parties” in town and probably more nationally – they seem like good motivators.

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  1. King Canute knew he wasn’t going to drown his subjects. He told the tide not to rise knowing that it would rise anyway, which would demonstrate to them that he was not omnipotent.

    Donald Trump is no Canute.

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    • Agreed, and agreed! According to the most popular version of the legend, Canute’s courtiers boasted that there was nothing he could not do; he put them in their place by demonstrating that the tides would not obey him. My point was that Trump is a warped version of Canute: he thinks that it would be good if the tides obeyed him and so therefore believes that they must.

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  2. Pingback: I Needed That… | David Pablo Cohn·

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