Anxiously awaiting the final vote count

Trump emerged from his three-day stay in Walter Reed’s Presidential Suite “feeling great.” Offering no real information on the symptoms that had brought him to the hospital, he also showed no new appreciation of (or compassion for) the suffering, loss and anxiety Americans are feeling nine months into the pandemic. What our president apparently learned was only that, “You don’t have to be dominated by the coronavirus.” 

This is despite the fact that he is among more than half a dozen people, including First Lady Melania Trump, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, top aide Hope Hicks, former counselor Kellyanne Conway, and an ever-growing number of administration officials, White House housekeeping staff and members of Congress who tested positive following the Rose Garden ceremony to nominate Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. The atmosphere there was made more elegant by flamboyant ignoring of all coronavirus safety measures.  

Though Trump is back in the White House, few of us were likely reassured by his homecoming display of fitness that included climbing a flight of stairs, giving multiple thumbs up, straightening his suit, sucking in his belly and removing his mask only to gasp for air. In the meantime, with deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. climbing to over 215,000 by the time you read this, most Americans don’t think Trump has done a good job handling the virus. Not surprisingly, Trump’s poll numbers, which were lagging behind Biden’s a week ago, have noticeably dropped as a result of the Rose Garden debacle. 

Since Trump remains determined to continue for a second term, suggesting that only if he wins will he believe that the election hasn’t been rigged, we face critical questions about our votes that would never be raised by a normal election. Will Trump agree to the election results if he doesn’t win? Or will he challenge all evidence that Biden has won with the accusation that among the absentee ballots are those of thousands (millions?) of individuals with no right to vote? And, even if Biden does clearly win the popular vote, will Trump encourage state Electoral College officials to vote for him, or call on his white-supremacist, anti-Semitic followers to “stand by” in his behalf, as he threatened during his 90-minute temper tantrum that substituted for a debate with Joe Biden? 

 Having lived through a steady stream of reporting on Trump’s tax evasions, his many financial entanglements and his ongoing warnings about election fraud, I take deep breaths and do my best to ride the daily waves of news, hoping against hope that, when the election results are counted, we will all experience a measure of relief. The fact that this long-awaited election comes after more than half a year of isolation due to the coronavirus means that we are all raw in ways that we would not otherwise be. As I’ve written in a previous column, probably the hardest aspect of the virus, other than our isolation, has been the uncertainty it has brought — an uncertainty only exacerbated by the election. Daily, most of us ask ourselves, are we doing enough to keep ourselves and those we love safe? Moreover, as we watch businesses and schools across the country open and then be forced to close because of rising infections, there is the long-term uncertainty of whether and when a vaccine will allow Americans to return to “normal,” and what this new normal will look like.

Though my life under coronavirus has been easy, and I have managed the uncertainties of the virus fairly well, I long for the sense of order, transparency and kindness that I believe Joe Biden can bring to the Oval Office. Imagine the pleasurable relief of a president issuing a clear science-based explanation of how the virus is communicated, along with careful directives for what all Americans (including those likely to get a light case of the virus) need to do to stop its spread. And imagine Americans unifying to implement these directives as a way to care for each other.

 

Carol Ascher, who lives in Sharon, has published seven books of fiction and nonfiction, as well as many essays and stories.  She is trained as a spiritual director.

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