2020 Elections Postmortem, Unstable Ground

Nov 16th, 2020 in Personal

The elections have come and gone, COVID-19 has ferociously returned (as if it ever left), and here I am in Flagstaff,  left feeling a bit adrift at it all. Overall, despite some bright spots, I’m entering this Winter blue and fighting back despondency.

Let’s touch on the elections first. That first week of November was an ugly train wreck for the country that narrowly avoided us careening off a cliff with a Trump reelection. That it was so close, and that the Democrats universally lost ground outside of Arizona and Georgia leaves me feeling abject disgust with the American populace. After four years of this nightmare, people turned out in droves to support him and were barely thwarted due to the advantages the Electoral College gives Republicans.

Even though Trump has been defeated, the closeness of the race means we’re doomed to continue seeing his Twitter vitriol and rallies from a news media addicted to covering his inanities. The rewards for other Republicans hugging Trump means his cult-like grip on the party remains, and that his toxic rhetoric and race baiting are at least tolerable if not supported countrywide. The psychic damage he’s wrought on the nation is unlikely to heal; he’s never going to go away, and I fully expect him to attempt a 2024 run unless he’s been imprisoned or dies.

At the least, we do have to be grateful that many of his atrocious policies, foreign and domestic, will be reversed and Biden at the helm offers a slim chance at cooling the temperature a little bit. Alas, without a resounding house and senate majority (instead we lost nearly every toss-up), a kneecapped Biden presidency isn’t going to be able to function past executive action. It may not even be able to confirm nominees to run the government. Now our hopes rest on the whims of Georgians just to get a shot at 50-50 in the senate to have things barely functional. May they deliver for a just America.

Perhaps this is a lesson to not put my faith in the polls that blew it a second time, but it was a seductive and righteous narrative I sank into, that a national smiting of Trump was imminent. It wouldn’t hurt to step back from this spectator sport either. I know that I waste a lot of time reading politics news; it’s oft procrastinating, and I struggle with that awareness in my worldview. I’m not an activist because I moved cross country to have my vote matter. It’s good to be self-critical especially when I think about my upbringing and on how my parents were consumed with impotent rage at things they never could change that barely affected them; things they were on the wrong side of history on. In the meanwhile, they ignored obvious problems in their lives they could fix. I don’t want to tumble in that trap (am I already in it?), but I do want to fight for what’s right, always. I don’t think privileged ignorance is the solution, but stepping back a tad might be fine in the short term.

One thing that was funny to me reading The Walking Dead was the despair that the not-long-for-this-world characters would voice before becoming zombie chow. Now, after nine months of this pandemic, and seeing how close an election we had despite hundreds of thousands dead on this president’s watch, I am starting to empathize. My mental health is fraying and I see the weariness in everyone. The caginess that comes with trying to connect with people in this era is exhausting and I’m just beaten down with what I’ve got.

I’m trying a remedy by shaking things up again and moving with the advent of the new year. I’ve been a bit listless since leaving my job and having had to settle for short expeditions in this nightmare reality, and I’m likely gunning to resume web dev work once I’m resettled. I don’t have plans at the moment to take any other adventures until Autumn; it’s too unpredictable with COVID and the burning of the West.

Unfortunately the catalyst for all this is just the realization that my roommate is abusive. Not physically thankfully, but in a context of taking his anger out on whoever’s closest; enough times, that’s been me. I try not to stand for this kind of treatment, but I really do understand from this year and past unsavory types I’ve lived with, that it’s really easy to sweep it under the rug and just carry on through it. There’s always a good day when things are back to normal. Ultimately, after the last, recent flare up, I just decided I couldn’t bear the Winter here cooped up with someone whose moods are a puzzle to navigate each day.

So, by New Years, I’ll be somewhere new. When I started penning this essay, a return to New York was most on my mind. It seems simplest to road trip there with my still-meager possessions, and see friends along the way. This would be a mirror of my journey out here a year ago. However, the COVID numbers are just ugly, lockdowns are imminent, and a road trip east would be less compelling if I had to do a straight shot of 10 hour drives seeing no one special. It still may happen, and who knows if I’ll even find the city recognizable if I choose to return there. I do know that after a year away that NYC is inexorably linked to my sense of self and beckons powerfully.

I’ve also given some thought about staying in Arizona and enjoying a mild Winter perhaps in the desert city of Tucson. I’ve heard a lot of good things about the vibe there and consider it a miss that I haven’t been yet. I’m a little leery about living somewhere where the summer heat is liable to melt my bike tires though. There’s a chance I remain here in Flagstaff; I’ve put out some feelers to the friends I’ve made in the area about availabilities, but at this point I’m sort of assuming I’m out. If so, I’ll write a eulogy for it, as it has been a nice place to live and then some and I’d be leaving without enmity for the city. Also, for what it’s worth, my vote did count here.

I’ve had some fun outdoors in the last month, most notably volunteering for Arizona Trail maintenance. In two consecutive weekends sandwiching the election, I was out on their backpacking work trips, where we hiked in supplies, encamped, and then did two solid days of work. The crew are mostly retirees, but the awesome type that are fit, smart and love nature. It reminded me a lot of my time back on the Appalachian Trail meeting all sorts of wizened, older, inspiring types. It felt so great to tire myself out swinging a pickaxe instead of thumbing through political polemics. It was honorable work, and it gave me a cool way to get a glimpse of the AZT I was denied from thru-hiking when it burned this year.

The website refresh remains my white whale, but I have made real progress since my last update. Check its Github now to keep me accountable! Unfortunately, my pace is still slow as hell, and I don’t think I ever give more than four hours a day to it, and that’s a rosy estimate. The big, ambitious ideas in my head for it often get bogged down with the nitty-gritty of how to design each page, and the challenge of learning a framework simultaneously scrambles my brain a bit. But that’s what I’m here for, to get a snazzy new site that uses the latest tech and reaffirms my competency in web development close to the cutting edge.

There’s my thoughts on the election and the dismal state of things. 2020 has been an awful year, even if I’ve weathered most of it well enough, and 2021 bodes to start out more as 2020 – 2 versus a fresh start, as I’m sure Americans will be dying en masse through the Winter. Gods above grant us all the tenacity to get over this mountain and to the brighter horizons afield.