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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Hangin’ In, Hangin’ Out

Betty Firth
Posted 11/9/22

As I write on this election night, I am aware of being in limbo, a feeling I have had for several days. As electioneering wound down, there was nothing more I could do except cross my fingers and …

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Hangin’ In, Hangin’ Out


As I write on this election night, I am aware of being in limbo, a feeling I have had for several days. As electioneering wound down, there was nothing more I could do except cross my fingers and pray, as I couldn’t respond to the multiple daily requests for donations from my empty coffers. And would my prayers be powerful enough against those who would pray for opposite outcomes? I might as well put my faith in crossed fingers, but that makes it very difficult to type.
This limbo feels like a physical space, a round room, all white, with no doors or windows, for that’s the point of limbo, isn’t it? Not being able to get out or see ahead? It is an emptiness that is still full of words, along with the awareness of the futility of all the thoughts swirling around. It is not a vacuum, for that would provide a pull, a sensation, which is not there. Just emptiness, providing room to wander around aimlessly.
So, I do crossword puzzles on my phone. It is a dangerous occupation, for it is very addicting, but it gives employment to all those words, remembered and forgotten, as well as a place for those that are just on the edge of being known, swirling around somewhere in my brain. Such activities are supposed to keep your brain healthy and alert, which I hope is true, because the preoccupation does not help get anything else done.
The electioneering has made me acutely aware of words. Bombarded with campaign literature, I wondered how much each word cost. The wordsmiths and marketers would aim for the balance between enough significant words without too much detail, which generally devolves into meaningless generalities that pretty much sound the same. The media ads are even more so…trying to choose the best few words to make a punch. How could we do it differently? What if the candidates saved the trees and contributed the money to their favorite charities, being allowed to broadcast one succinct true statement for every $5,000, e.g., “David Democrat is in favor of universal health care and has contributed $5,000 to cancer research.” There would be an upper limit on statements and contributions, and the electorate would be saved from mind-numbing redundancy.
Maybe that’s the worst of it: we get tired and bored and annoyed, when we ought to be excited about the privileges that we have as voting citizens. We get to choose whom we want to represent us, and we can actually ask them questions and challenge their answers. We have the leverage of our vote. If they’re local, we can do that in the grocery store, unfortunately for them. I give them all credit for their willingness.
A friend sent me these words from Nelson Mandela, (1918-2013), Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and first democratically-elected president of South Africa:
Twenty-eight years ago, South Africans lined up in the millions to vote in their first democratic election. The black majority, and righteous South Africans of all ethnic backgrounds, struggled for generations for all to exercise this expression of citizenship in their homeland –-a right we in the United States take for granted at our peril.
“I waited over 70 years to cast my first vote. As the world held its breath, South Africans together made their mark to bring into being one of the truly remarkable events of this turbulent century. Once more, we affirmed a truism of human history: that the people are their own liberators. I voted not only for myself alone but for many who took part in our struggle. I felt that each one of them held my hand that made the cross, helped me to fold the ballot paper and push it into the ballot box.”
The past week also contained a conversation that cracked me open, and pedantic scolding came pouring out. As of Friday, a friend had not cast her ballot, nor was she aware of the deadlines. She had asked me for advice on the candidates I favored, but she had not asked why, and I was frustrated that she had given it no more thought than that. And I told her so. She said, “I’m just one of those people who don’t feel that their vote counts.” That didn’t sound sincere to me. It sounded like an excuse to not give it any more thought. I thought she was just repeating what she heard someone else say, not even thoughtful to that extent.
I realized I was dumping my fears and angst about this election into my reaction, making my friend take responsibility for not only her own lack of attention, but for everyone else who was blithely going about their lives, not recognizing that their democracy and way of life were under siege. Perhaps that has always been true; all elections are certainly important, but the intransigence of those trying to overturn a valid election, destabilizing our electoral democracy, while effectively condoning the damage to property and lives, has been stunning. How could anyone not be paying attention?
At times I envy their obliviousness. What would that be like to be free of these concerns, rather than always wondering what can be done? I do understand the lure of uninformed quietude. I also understand the demands of life that overwhelm, numbing the parts of our beings that allow thoughtful resilience. I get it. I just don’t like it. I really need to meditate.