The Americans are doing something truly wonderful. They are turning out to vote in historic numbers.
I watch them in awe, as they go to the polls. A very, very old woman says, in a soft, nostalgic voice, ‘I remember voting for Roosevelt.’
In Philly, the women are turning out in droves. One man in Cleveland, asked why he changed his vote from Trump to Biden says, in a broken voice, ‘I just can’t take it any more.’ He talks about the coronavirus. ‘It’s not just the flu. I wish Trump would stop saying it’s just the flu.’ And, in an even sadder voice he says, ‘And he shouldn’t be attacking Dr Fauci.’
The mocking of Dr Fauci has made me as shocked as a maiden aunt. There is a man who has dedicated his entire life to public service, who is polite and measured and who hides his vast intelligence under an exterior of almost heroic modesty, and Donald Trump has gone round rally after rally sneering at him, leading the crowd in chants of ‘Fire Fauci,’ and then making jokes. I don’t understand a word of it. I thought he couldn’t go any lower after the ‘grab them by the pussy’ remark. He went lower.
I think of how my mum would be horrified by the bad manners and the unkindness and the gleeful lack of simple human sympathy. She loved politics, but she would have hated this.
I hope there is a change. It’s a quiet Tuesday night in Scotland and I should be in my bed because of work tomorrow, but I think I’m going to stay up for a while and watch. Brilliant NBC is streaming the whole thing live on the internet. I am rather amazed by their generosity in sending their election out to the world. They’ve activated a squad of very excited and brilliantly well-informed reporters, who know every last thing about the astonishingly intricate American electoral system. (I know that’s their job, but I am still impressed.) It’s all a very, very long way from David Dimbleby sitting in the BBC studio with his wryness and his irony and his understatement.
I don’t know whether this feels huge because we are living through a pandemic. Everything feels huge at the moment. But perhaps it is a seismic election. The old bleeding heart liberal in me feels it is a choice between courtesy and rudeness, between an open mind and a closed prejudice, between hope and fear. Even as I write that, I know it is absurdly simplistic, but that is what it feels like. It also feels like a choice between facts and fantasy, between lies and the truth. There is someone at the Washington Post – I think it’s the Post – whose entire job is now to count Donald Trump’s lies whilst he’s been in office. It’s over twenty thousand. I have another maiden-auntish attack; I wouldn’t even know how to tell twenty thousand lies. Nobody I know in life could bend and break and bust the truth with such unrepentant fluency.
I’ve spent the whole of this diary avoiding politics, especially American politics, because the divisions are so deep and the tribalism is so tribal and everyone gets so cross. But when someone is so visible and so powerful and so consequential, you can’t help having an opinion. There are people in life you like and people you don’t. There are core beliefs you cherish, and principles you defend to the last ditch. A man talking about grabbing women by the pussy is a ditch I’ll die in. That is my unacceptable ditch; a Rubicon I can’t cross. Those are my sisters he’s taking about and I draw the line. We women aren’t to be reduced to body parts. We are minds and hearts and brains and spirits; we are hopes and dreams and fears and ambitions. I don’t think any of us should be grabbed, ever. And that’s probably the least controversial thing I’ll ever write, but the truly strange thing about these times is that I can guarantee there will be some people who will get grumpy and twitchy about it.
There’s a voice in my head which says: don’t write about this. Don’t step on to the dangerous ground. Press, press, press the delete button and write something cheering about the autumn leaves or the red mare dreaming her dreams whilst the farrier tended to her feet or the sweet face of my friend Maurice the Sheep. Because nobody can get furious about Maurice the Sheep.
But I hear the voice of that incredible old woman in my head. ‘I remember voting for Roosevelt.’ I want to write her down. I want to remember her voice always. And the people of America are doing something remarkable. They’ve been queuing for hours and hours to vote and when asked why, they say, ‘I wanted my ballot to count’. They are making their voices heard. They have faith in the democratic process, even though it must have failed so many of them in past. They are standing up. And, whoever wins, I think that is magnificent. So I am damn well going to write that.
2 thoughts on “Lockdown Diary: Day Two Hundred and Twenty-Five.”
Oh, how I agree with you. My anxiety is through the roof that this man with no redeeming characteristics will continue to drive the US further into third world territory.
Maya Angelou said, When someone tells you who they are, believe them. The first time.
Right at the start of the campaigning for the 2016 election he told us what kind of a person he is, and what he would bring to the presidency.
Unfortunately he is apparently saying and doing what his followers want.
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So sorry I missed this comment. And now your words have even more tragic resonance. My thoughts are with you.