Election Day is Going to Be Chaotic. We Need to Be Patient But Prepared.
Tomorrow, my mom will head out at 5 am to report to the polling place that she has been assigned to work, and she won’t be allowed to leave the site until two hours after the polls close. She’s deeply nervous about ‘proud boy’-types showing up outside with big guns; and I’m worried about her extended exposure to covid risk. I won’t let her leave the house without double layers of masks, a face shield, and extra gloves. She won’t let me make any more jokes about the potential of a ‘race war’ igniting as the hours count down, the ballots are processed across the country, and the tension achieves a crescendo.
Mom doesn’t need any more stress on her shoulders, so I won’t kid. Let’s get serious, because this Gilead-reminiscent tiktok showing Washington, D.C. storefronts and government buildings boarding up matched with the sound of sirens from The Purge fits a little too well. This unsettling eeriness is just setting the stage. Things may very well get chaotic on Election Day and for the rest of this week (or more), so we need to stop avoiding talking about it, and start getting ready as individuals, families, and united communities.
First of all, I would like to actually see talk about what we do, more strategically than safety-wise, if Trump wins — or if Joe Biden wins, but that fascist orange idiot refuses to leave. There are countless more plausible nightmarish scenarios that could explode. Justified shade to those who have been planning and mobilizing to win this election by the rules since the minute Trump was sworn in four years ago, but are markedly quiet about this very important element of the outcome we are trying to achieve. I will not be relying on the notion of the 250-year-old system (currently being severely manipulated by malicious political actors) to sort things out on its own, thank you very much. For our safety and sanity..say more. If these discussions are indeed being had, there’s no reason to isolate them behind closed doors. The people need to know. The unrest is already happening anyway, and we are in full a full menu of unbridled tumult in 24 hours.
What I know is that when Election Day goes off the rails, the activist lawyers will deploy, the movement leaders will organize protests in hours, the news media will go haywire, the twitter civil war will launch, and we will all lose our shit. I implore you to lose your shit in the safety of your home (if you have the privilege of a steady place to take shelter), unless there is an accessible and socially-distanced opportunity for you to make a difference out where you live. If we need to be in the streets, then we’ve gotta be ready to be out in the streets. And if the other guys are gonna be out in the streets to come for us, then we gotta be ready for that too.
But before you head out — take the time to cool your head, make decisions deliberately, and consider the effect that your actions might have on the most vulnerable people in your community. And on all humans who breathe, because there’s still a pandemic on — November 3rd could be the worst day in the United States for coronavirus yet, because that’s how 2020 be. But forreal, make an effort to continue empowering margninzalied voices during this time of crisis, particularly Black femme and nonbinary voices, and defer to their guidance (though it’s not our responsibility to lead you to not do stupid and selfish things). Be sure to evaluate your environment’s vulnerabilities and advantages.
For example, I live in a less than ideal environment in these times — a neighborhood in Phoenix, Arizona where am I am surrounded by Trump 2020 flags. (A house three doors down just added a “God, Guns, and Trump” flag, for good measure). My cacti-and-rock front yard defies that trend: overflowing with candidate signs for everything from mayor to county treasurer (every race matters!!!); along with the handmade “Justice for Dion, Justice for Breonna, Justice for Black Lives” sign in the window.
This assortment of names, clashing colors, and urgent political messages apparently makes me credible among the minority of scattered Democrats in the area. Our neighbor approached my mother the other day telling her that his family took a picture of our yard to be used as their guide for filling out their ballots, and also asked for advice on who to vote for with the dozens of practically anonymous judges on the ballot. My mom didn’t hesitate to lend him our booklet of voting notes. He invited us to join an alliance with the one other Democrat family on our street, agreeing look out for each other in the coming weeks, checking in and sharing resources if needed. I advise you to do the same: reach out to your people, as well as to the people who you aren’t close to yet, but whom you identify as in need of allies.
In terms of other specific actions to take to prepare yourselves, I recommend checking out this guide posted by Black Phoenix Organizing Collective, a liberatory group (with whom I am an organizer) that is building Black political power and fighting to transform quality of life in our community. Above all, we recommend hunkering down, reaffirming your connections, and stocking up on the essentials.
I shared this resource with my family members after my aunt, who lives near D.C., bravely and quite honestly voiced her fears about the potential for unrest in the coming days. The biweekly family zoom has typically been an affair in which my cohort of 22 cousins aged 18–35 (attendance rates vary) endure a deluge of boomer humor and progressively less-light political commentary for an hour or so from our parents, aunts, and uncles. When I was finally called on in the long queue of kin to offer my projection about what’s going to happen, I expressed something like the following:
We must accept that a little chaos can be a good thing for our nation.
There’s reason to be afraid, but no reason to disappear into that fear — we just need to stay ready and prepared for anything that might happen. I hate to agree with one of our most influential founding slaveowners, but Jefferson had a point when he said “a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical”. I will distinguish that I am envisioning a lot more than a little rebellion as we fight to dismantle the white supremacist system that he bequeathed to us.
We must accept that a little chaos can be a good thing for our nation. The short-term consequences of chaos are worth it, because our future is worth it. I believe that the protests in our streets, and even the riots and looting conducted by folks who are frustrated with the racist, brutal, stratified status quo, are events that can lead to positive outcomes. These events demand attention. They are flashy and draw eyes to the issues that cannot be ignored any longer if justice is to be a thing that really exists in our country.
Our strong aversion to disorder is an unfortunate distraction from the real problems that the action in our streets rightfully exposes. Too many Americans observe what happens when the systemically-trapped masses reach their breaking point, and see only bottomless lawlessness — making no effort to sort out the why and what can be done and maybe the people in power and the boys in blue are the ones who are lawless — and instead dive into the fear spiral. They retreat to their safe, culturally and socially-affirming camps instead of considering ways to make peace or act in solidarity. It’s not your problem right, even if the “chaos” is in your hometown and your streets?
I’m not afraid of post-Election Day unruliness. I invite it, if the outcomes of the balloting invite it.
I’m not afraid of post-Election Day unruliness. I invite it, if the outcomes of the balloting invite it. Even if the election goes off without a hitch — the lines don’t stretch for miles, the ballots are quickly counted, there are no contests in the courts, and the losers gracefully accept the fact that the people have justly rejected them — I invite unrest, because that perfect fantasy isn’t going to happen. If everything goes perfectly, we still shouldn’t be satisfied. When (or if) the dust eventually settles, we will learn how severely broken our democracy truly is. We will process it, we will rest and recover ourselves, and then we should be ready to put our bodies on the line to change it for good.