I'm sitting in the Staff Lounge at the Library, killing time before I meet some friends for dinner. Nestled in the armchair that I'm always coveting if someone else is sitting in it, I'm trying to read some of Season of the Witch, but I keep getting distracted by the autumn afternoon visible from the big bank of windows in front of me. Late afternoon sunlight catches in the brilliant orange of the leaves of one of the trees which has turned. Cars putter their way through the Library parking lot, their drivers on the lookout for one an empty parking spot (those things are scarcer than hen's teeth) and lots of students walk to and fro on the sidewalks surrounding the building.
It's a perfect fall day, golden and a little chilly and everything I could ever ask for. But despite the beauty and bustle before me, I'm ill at ease. Because as lovely as the scene is, it belies the currents of angst and tension and fear and anger that are tugging and flowing beneath the surface of this placid tableaux. Things are golden on the surface, but peel back the outermost layer and you'll see about 365 million American people who are seething as we approach November 8.
Welcome to the autumn of our discontent.
I was here for Election 2004, when Kerry ran against Bush and all us liberals knew we didn't have a hope in hell of getting Bush out of the White House. We were disappointed, sure, and we were scared, but things seemed less--angry, and fraught. Whereas, 12 years later, we're in the middle of an election in which racism, xenophobia, and misogyny have been given a safe haven in which they can rear their heads; and which was accurate summed up by a meme which states, "America's like an old couch and this election is like a black light being shined upon it."
Here in our little blue island of Bloomington, it's easy to forget how very, very red most of the rest of Indiana is. But I only need to venture a little bit out of town, out into the small hamlets and townships, to see the Trump/Pence signs, and to know that I am very much in the minority. I love small-town Indiana, I love the anonymity and "nobody-ness" of Middle America, but sometimes, when I am strolling through a fair or festival in one of those little towns, and looking into the friendly faces of my fellow Hoosier, and making pleasant small talk with them, I have to remind myself, "If you were just a little bit more different, you might be experiencing these folks quite a bit differently."
Or not. Who knows? This is the same country that elected President Obama for two terms. Despite the dumbass shit being posted on Facebook and Twitter, despite the crowds thronging to Trump so that they can go back to the good ol' days of being white, I'd like to think that most of us are pretty decent folk.
It's not like Indiana sold me a false bill of goods--I knew, going into it, that I was moving to a very conservative, insular state. And I chose to come here anyway, to be one of the few who can fight the progressive good fight (although for me, "fighting the good fight" was really just banging the ears of my guests with my political opinions while they looked at the pancakes I was making with equal parts hunger and anxiety) in this state. And it's why I will stay in this country--if shit goes south (in more ways than one) in this election, I'll stay here and do what I can to help the decent folk in this country to keep alive our vision of a stronger America, a better America, a safer America, a more accepting America--the America that can always, always still come to be.