I plan to be in bed during election night because I am exhausted. The entire spectacle of the presidential election has worn me out. I’ve grown weary of the soul-sucking electoral anxiety scattered across every feed and timeline. My eyes ache under the constant and compounding violence — election related or otherwise — that glares from my screen.
I’m fascinated that so many other people still find themselves capable of being entertained or amused by the absurdity of it all.
If I could find some delight in the overdone orange/cheeto joke, or some endearment in viral videos of candidates dancing in the rain, maybe the slow crawl to what we’re calling “the most important election of our lifetime” would feel more bearable.
Don’t mistake my exhaustion for indifference about this election. I recognize the enormous fear that this election holds for many, and that fear is legitimate. I know how much this presidential election matters for the future of this country — and then again, I know just how much it doesn’t. The foundational failures of this country are planted far deeper than any one candidate, administration, or political party can root out. The seeds of violence that built this country are directly connected to the white supremacy, colonialism, and environmental degradation the United States still perpetuates today.
Our systems of governance have yet to truly reckon with the consequences of this history and neither have the two candidates running for presidential office.
In 1965, W.E.B. DuBois asked how long the dumb farce of two-party American democracy can proceed without even a whimper of a protest. In 2020, among burning ballot boxes, hours-long polling lines, and the unstable postal service, I wonder the same thing. My vote feels like an act of desperation, not an act of fair and free democracy.
But the whimpers that were missing in 1965 have since grown into the roar of a thousand protests in 2020. Far beyond what any presidential candidate could inspire in me, mass movements in our city, across the country, and around the world have given me true hope in our future. The demands of these movements calling for an end to state violence, free and affordable housing for all, reparations, and a true vision for climate justice are far beyond what the two remaining presidential candidates have pushed on their platforms.
I feel the power of people united in global demands for freedom so strongly that I have been able to transform my fear of the election into energy towards mass movements. Many of us in communities disconnected from institutional power are skeptical that we will ever live full and free lives under this system, regardless of who is elected for president.
That perspective can make the results of the presidential election feel inconsequential. We know true power lies in and with the many movements — for racial justice, decolonization, climate change and more — that are happening outside of the ballot box.
So after an exhausting election season, I will allow myself the simplest measure of peace by spending election night in bed instead of a panicked screen. My bed is often the gateway to my dream space, but I do plenty of dreaming in my waking life too.
In my daydreams I spend a lot of time imagining my freedom.
My book club focused on political education and activist literature is named the Freedom Ideas Literary Circle. The name comes from a scene in Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred where an enslaved character, Nigel, mocks a slave master who is afraid that his slaves will get “freedom ideas” in their heads. I’m reminded of how often our freedom ideas are feared, mocked, and diminished by the people that we elect into public office. I’m reminded of how important preserving and nurturing our imagination is in our journey to freedom.
I hope those who can vote in this remarkable election do, and I hope you bring your freedom ideas with you. Our movements will need them long after this election is over.
What’s your voting plan?
We know that you embrace your civic responsibility, and voting is one piece of that picture. So — tell us about your voting plans. If you can vote, did you already vote? Are you today? How are you inspiring others in your family and community to get out and vote? Of course, voting isn’t the only way you contribute to your community. How else are you showing up civically this year? What are you doing beyond voting to be an active leader? Tell us all about it online with the hashtag #DeliveringDemocracy.
This year, Pollen teamed up with 100% Action’s Delivering Democracy campaign to create custom illustrated pieces of art celebrating active democracy. The artwork featured here by Noah Lawrence-Holder is part of that campaign and produced in partnership with 100% Action.
voting box above illustrated by Brenda Tran