We went to the polls on November 8
And then it was the day afterBy Kit-Bacon Gressitt
I’m working the public library polling place in my little Republican-majority town, nestled amid the gray-green groves of North San Diego County. Our poll inspector, la jefa, stands in the doorway and declares to the waiting line, “Here ye, here ye, the polls are now open!”
I offer ballots in three languages to those who rush in, eager to vote and get to their jobs, to save the nation from the other party. Some voters bellyache that ballots are available in anything other than English. I try to quiet their amplified xenophobia by noting the beauty of Tagalog, its Spanish influence, by making mitigating quips they don’t care to hear. I also lead cheers for first-time voters, deflect others who assume the right to challenge the suffrage of one brown person or another, and think of my Latina daughter at home.
It’s time for my first of two forty-five minute breaks, and I hurry out, followed by a male voter in business attire. He catches up, tosses a grimaced smile and says, “How does it feel, your vote being wiped out by the Democrats?”
What I feel is that he’s making too many assumptions—perhaps because I’ve dressed up a bit for the day, because I’m white, because nearly all the pollsters project Hillary Clinton will win. But I say none of this, because today I represent the County, because we’re still within one hundred feet of the polling place and no electioneering is allowed here, because I have a gnawingly bad feeling.
So I return his smile, say “It’s been an interesting campaign season, eh?” and figure if I’d worn flip-flops, let my tattoos show, he’d have left me alone.
The line of voters reaches across the room. My phone is dinging. I wait for a rare lull to sneak a peek. My daughter writes:
I try not to think about it, just hand out ballots as the line lengthens again, do a verbal two-step around the white supremacists, encourage the voters who’ve become stooped tending the region’s crops, who leave their children at home to go clean the toilets of the privileged, and I thank the young Hispanics and African Americans and Middle Easterners and Asians and LGBTQs and white kids for voting.
My phone dings again. And again. At last I'm able to check, and my daughter writes:
I try to be hopeful, but I have this bad feeling.
The polls close. The last voter leaves fifteen minutes later, having struggled to figure out California’s seventeen ballot propositions. We check our phones for any results, scrolling for an encouraging trend.
Another ding, and my daughter writes:
Stop watching, I text her.
We are packing up equipment, supplies and hundreds more mail and provisional ballots than usual. They’ll take days to verify and count, but are there enough of them across the nation to make a difference? Only one of our team is working with a smile now—after scowling most of the day.
My daughter and I have surfed from website to website for hours in fruitless search of a miracle, in tears. Now we give up.
Sorrowful, not surprised, I sigh into bed.
The day after Trump was elected
3:30 a.m., 4, 5, 6:30
Unable to sleep, I finally rise and scroll through hundreds of messages and texts—of dismay, fear, outrage, of blame—blaming Trump’s win on the uneducated, on white women, white men, racists and Islamaphobes, misogynists, xenophobes, rightwing Christians, anti-abortion activists, the under- and unemployed working class. I read the occasional call for unity, the refusals to unite with racists and bigots.
Coffee calls me. Toddling into sunlight with a mug, I find the Mexican-American landscaper preparing to plant fruit trees with his crew.
[caption id="attachment_18008" align="alignright" width="377"] CNN Exit Poll 09 N0v 2016[/caption]
We chat about the work, which tree will go where, about his family.
“What do you think about the election?” He nods toward the propaganda side of my front gate. “I saw your Hillary Clinton sticker up there.”
“We cried a lot, my daughter and I,” I say. “It’s hard not to feel targeted by all the white people who voted for Trump, right?”
He manages a chuckle. “This might be my last year working here. Maybe we will go back to Mexico.
"You can come with us,” he says.
PS: If you're opposed to a racist, misogynist, homophobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic president, consider attending the Women's March on Washington, on Saturday, January 21, 2017.
In the meantime, watch Hillary Clinton sing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," via SNL.
..................................... About Kit-Bacon Gressitt
Spawned by a Southern Baptist creationist and a liberal social worker, K-B inherited the requisite sense of humor to survive family dinner-table debates and the imagination to avoid them. She has an MFA in Creative Writing, with an emphasis on narrative nonfiction, and has taught Women’s Studies in the Cal State University system. Her political fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry have been published by The Missing Slate, Trivia: Feminist Voices, Ms. Magazine blog, San Diego Poetry Annual, New Moon Girl Media, San Diego Uptown News, San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, American University’s iVory Towerz, San Diego Free Press, Chiron Review, and others, including on her website www.ExcuseMeImWriting.com.
The complete CNN exit poll is available here.