I feel questions about this election that are unable to be contained, spewing out of me like a tea kettle rattling and whistling uncontrollably as the water boils hot.
I wonder who will win the election, but there are more questions to be asked this year than ever before. When will the election be deemed over? Will votes be properly counted? Will the Electoral College vote reflect the popular vote? Will the loser concede the election, and will power be transferred peacefully? Will there be peaceful demonstrations, violence or civil unrest?
The kettle is raging and shaking, almost as if the pressure will shatter it into thousands of pieces. I could go on, but I’ll turn the heat down on the kettle instead.
The point is, there is more uncertainty now than ever before, and we are more aware of those uncertainties now than in any other election in our recent memory.
Social media and the internet have connected us to stories and speculation at an unprecedented pace, and the pandemic has diverted some attention away from other facets of our lives that we may have previously focused on. So even when there have been large, looming questions surrounding elections before, I’d make the case that we’ve never been so aware of them. That does something to us and our perceptions of our nation, democracy and society.
The changes to how we live may not have inherently adverse effects. I’m not arguing that access to more information is all bad, but it can heighten existing feelings of pessimism, exhaustion and stress surrounding the election. It effectively increases the heat on the already steaming water.
All this is to say that if you’ve been feeling anxious or worried about the election due to its many unanswered questions, your feelings are valid. They make sense. Although the worry may manifest in different ways in different people and for different reasons, we all feel it.
However, we need to do more than validate how we feel in the face of such uncertainty. We must recognize what we do have control over. If you were able to vote, remind yourself that you voted. If you haven’t voted, go vote. Acknowledge the conversations you have had with your neighbors and family about the propositions you’re voting for and the officials you support, as well as the conversations you know you’ll continue to have about issues that matter to you. Think about the donations you gave and continue to give. Recall your attendance at city council meetings or at presidential rallies this year or pledge to be physically present in the future. Focus on what you have done, what you can do and what you will do.
In attempting to pinpoint why we feel the stress that we do, we can better inform the actions we will take not only in future election years but also in our daily lives to influence the outcomes we wish to see in our country.
If your main focus is getting Joe Biden elected, make a note to engage more in phone banks and outreach efforts in the future. If you’re frustrated by the fragility of the two-party system, do research on multi-party systems and how we can get there. If the ongoing police brutality plaguing the country deeply upsets you, find organizations that are dedicated to combating such brutality and support them with your time, energy or donations.
These actions won’t cause your current feelings to disappear, but they can give you something tangible to focus on and an outlet for channeling your energy — you can feel confident and sure knowing that you are doing something to move you forward, and in some way, move the country forward, one small step at a time.
When everything arounds us feels uncertain, we must find elements of certainty through committing ourselves to addressing the questions that keep us up at night. While we may not be able to find answers to those questions in a single day, we need to remember to keep trekking toward a better future. The kettle is whistling and the stovetop dial is broken — we can’t simply turn down the flame. Instead, we must find ways to repurpose the heat and fuel our movement forward.
Contact Surina Khurana at [email protected].