Election 2020

Like many of my friends, I am torn between who I want to be (and usually am) and who I am at this particular moment, which is just so angry. I try to see all sides of issues. I really do. You’ll note that I said “all,” not both, because often there are many more sides than two, and I appreciate nuance.

But as I watch friends and acquaintances–people I went to school with, lived next door to, taught, worked with–blithely willing to turn their back on democracy and embrace fascism, I am devastated. I cannot see all sides, because right now we have two choices: democracy and fascism. 

Some of the people on my Facebook feed I have always known to be somewhat, or even very, narcissistic, so I’m not terribly surprised. They believe their identities place them at the top of American fascism’s caste structure, so they see only its advantages to them and don’t care how it hurts others. Ironically, they have no idea who’s at the top, because they are nowhere near that realm. Either way, with them, I figure being tied to them in an election is like the frog riding the scorpion–stinging is their nature.

But others I simply cannot fathom. I cannot wrap my head around people I always thought of as good, decent people willfully choosing fascism over democracy. And yet they are.

Look, there have certainly been presidents who have behaved despicably, so in the past, when people I know have decided that Trump’s childishness, his treatment of women, his narcissism haven’t necessarily disqualified him to be our president, I have been dismayed, but not infuriated. After all, I have made devil’s deals with candidates who were far from perfect, so I am hardly stainless.

But when a president will not agree to a peaceful transfer of power, works tirelessly with his party to undermine a U.S. election and invites foreign powers to do the same, encourages thugs to intimidate people at the polls and tells them to prepare to commit acts of violence should he lose, a vote for him is inescapably a vote for fascism. It just is.

Of course, those who support a shift to fascism will not be honest about it. Fascism is such an ugly word. Oh, they want fascism–a dictator who cannot be deposed by the will of people they deem unworthy of any power at all and who embraces violence against anyone who disagrees with them. They just don’t want us to call it that. (And before anyone cites violence around racial unrest, a) Trump’s own F.B.I. director pointed out that violent extremism from white supremacists has made up a majority of domestic terrorism threats, and b) has Biden ever suggested that members of BLM “stand back and stand ready”? No.)

Did you ever read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? Huck spends a whole journey learning that Jim, an escaped slave, is a human being and not just a piece of property. The end of that book is ruined when he allows his friend Tom to turn Jim into a plaything. He follows along with Tom’s ridiculous plan to “free” Jim (whom Tom already knows to be free). There is a point where, wrapped up in an elaborate fantasy of digging Jim a tunnel with pocket knives, Tom realizes it’s impossible and says, “I’ll tell you. It ain’t right, and it ain’t moral, and I wouldn’t like it to get out; but there ain’t only just the one way: we got to dig him out with the picks, and LET ON it’s case-knives.”

There is only one way to vote for Trump and still proclaim your love of democracy: “I’ll tell you. It ain’t right, and it ain’t moral, and I wouldn’t like it to get out; but there ain’t only just the one way: we got to vote for fascism, and LET ON it’s democracy.” 

It’s a terrible way to end a story.

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Paula is an author of historical fiction as well as a wife, mom, and teacher.
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