Democracy has been a tricky thing these days. Used to be I would occasionally post on Facebook about my candidate of choice, proudly display a sign in my yard and make a fuss about donning my sticker on Election Day. Now, it’s fair to say, “it’s complicated.”
Not that I don’t have a candidate of choice — I do. But I’ve rather ghosted off social media where I’d display my virtual heart on my cyber sleeve. These days, I pop in just enough to spin my social plate as it bobbles on the stick of my outward-facing life. After a friend was criticized for being “too happy” in pictures with his young children during these troubled times, I found myself going dark, getting insular. That’s saying something for someone who wrote a memoir. I’m not sure I could write that book today. Actually, I’m sure I couldn’t.
However, there’s been some amazing shifts in my household. While typically forward-leaning me has reclined into quietude, my less demonstrative husband has found his voice. And it’s not an electronic one. Sickened by watching the political battle waged behind screens, he decided to literally “put himself out there,” standing at a popular Duluth intersection holding a political sign. With a small parcel of like-minded friends (which only occasionally includes me), he’s there, every day, for 30 days.
He’s insisted on positive signs only, not wanting to add to the civic rancor. He and his somewhat merry (and often cold) band endure Duluth’s rush minute (but they stay for the full hour) expressly to — and I’m quoting here — “Give hope to the hopeless!” That’s what they say in their Walmart-style team huddle before hitting the sidewalk.
They explode when people lean into their car horns and bust out an upward thumb, basking in the shared enthusiasm. And with that same zeal, they count how many birds are flipped their way, usually numbering in the low teens. Recently, they were treated to a full moon from a passenger seat. That evening’s haul was 11 birds and one ass.
There have also been scary moments, like when a GMC Yukon was purposely driven into the breakdown lane and nosed over the sidewalk, just feet from where I was standing. Clearly, the driver was trying to unnerve me. Mission accomplished! At home, I made myself a hot toddy, quickly followed by a second.
But the next day, when I passed on attending, Jason suited up and trudged out. He’s even added an American flag to hoist in the air. As a veteran, he’s not willing to let it be assigned to either party.
What’s intriguing is that he’s out there despite the discomforts — cold, rain, anger — he often arrives home wet, chilled and happy. He says it’s okay to feel uncomfortable, vulnerable even, because democracy doesn’t guarantee those things, just the opportunity to be heard. I often hang back to watch old seasons of The Great British Baking Show, specifically because it’s a-political. And the contestants are kind to each other.
When I do go, I don’t believe my sign is swaying votes, though one could argue it might remind someone to get to the polls or drop their absentee ballot in the box. Things, like hope, are hard to quantify. Judging from the majority of drivers whose faces brighten as they pass, I think it makes folks feel less alone in the struggle — and in 2020 that’s not nothing.
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