— November 8, 2020 —
opened my front door Saturday morning to find a surprise on the porch: a 25-pound box containing an impressive selection of wines, including a merlot from Washington, a Pinot Noir from Argentina, and a Vinno Rosso from Italy. My wife and I were utterly confused: “Who sent this? Maybe FedEx delivered to the wrong house.” I checked the shipping label. Nope, the address was correct.
There was no personal note inside to reveal who the mystery sender might be, only a newsletter from Firstleaf, a wine club, along with informational cards for each bottle. I rushed to my computer to dig up clues when a WhatsApp alert popped up on my phone shortly before 11 a.m. A friend in Paris had forwarded breaking news: Joe Biden had won the election as the 46th president of the United States.
I went to the New York Times website for confirmation and was welcomed by a bold headline: “Biden Beats Trump.” The subhead read: “Harris Is First Woman Elected Vice President.” I clenched my fists and shouted, “Yes!”
We voted as if our lives depended on it and, like the United States Postal Service and those mail-in ballots, we delivered.
The votes of 74 million people, including mine, had ushered in a new, more hopeful chapter in America. We voted as if our lives depended on it and, like the United States Postal Service and those mail-in ballots, we delivered.
Moments later, my wife’s cell phone rang. It was her uncle. He wanted to know if we had received the box he’d sent. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The wine had arrived just in time for what felt like a global moment of celebration: President Donald Trump (a.k.a. “Screaming Carrot Demon,” as Samantha Bee dubbed him) had been booted out of office.
My wife and I were giddy with joy for the rest of day, reading news analyses about how Kamala Harris broke the glass ceiling as the first female vice president and first woman VP of color and what to expect ahead of Inauguration Day. We bellyached with laughter as we scrolled through hilarious memes and videos about Trump’s upcoming eviction from the White House, including our favorite from @terinewyork set to “You About to Lose Yo Job” by Johnniqua Charles (remixed by DJ iMarkkeyz and DJ Suede).
The joy I felt, however, was tempered by the sobering fact that 70 million Americans voted to re-elect Trump. I worried about a violent backlash as Trump supporters —some carrying military-style semiautomatic rifles—chanted “This isn’t over!” and “Stop the steal” while protesting at state capitols across the country, refusing to accept the election results and repeating false claims that Democrats won the election by fraud.
During his victory speech as president-elect, Joe Biden called for unity, as expected.
“It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again,” Biden said. “And to make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as our enemies. They are not our enemies. They are Americans.”
His words triggered memories from this past Halloween. In our subdivision, the decorations crept up slowly, on one house after another, until the whole block of our Chicago suburb was in the spirit. Plastic skeletons and glow-in-the-dark pumpkins here. Gauzy spiderwebs and festive graveyards there. But it was the lawn sign at the end of the block that truly gave me a fright: Trump “Keep America Great” 2020.
For me, becoming a father magnified my empathy, patience, and capacity for kindness. I could never cast a vote for a politician who amplifies the worst aspects of human nature.
I haven’t formally met the owners of the house with the Trump sign, but I know the family that calls that house a home consists of a husband, a wife, and their two young children. My wife and I often wave to them when we drive by.
Much has been written about why people voted for Trump, but I’ll truly never understand how anyone could support him or what he represents, especially supporters who are also parents.
For me, becoming a father magnified my empathy, patience, and capacity for kindness. I could never cast a vote for a politician who amplifies the worst aspects of human nature and advances policies that have made America, as The New York Times noted, “weaker, meaner, poorer, sicker and more divided than four years ago.”
Biden is correct though: My neighbors are as American as I am. But that doesn’t mean they’re immune to tribalism or above being on the wrong side of history. The people of the Confederacy were Americans, too, but they still lost the Civil War. To quote a favorite tweet of late from @cdvaughn16: “‘Agree to disagree’ is reserved for things like ‘I don’t like coffee.’ Not racism, homophobia, and sexism. Not human rights. Not basic common decency…We do not have a difference of opinion. We have a difference in morality.”
ive days after Election Day, my neighbor’s lawn sign is still up. It will come down, eventually.
I look forward to the Biden-Harris administration hitting the reset button on America, but I won’t forget how a family that owns property on the same block as mine, used their lawn to express support for a political cult that threatens my existence as a person of color in America.
We may share the same street, but we inhabit two different Americas.
With the 2020 election results (hopefully) behind us, now more than ever is the time to take heed of the words delivered in 1968 by Martin Luther King Jr. at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.:
“Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools.”
Truer words were never spoken.
— Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash