Decision 2020

Two days before the election, I was shocked to hear how the rancor between the two campaigns had hit a new level right in my own neighborhood.  My usually tranquil walk  along South Ocean Drive was interrupted by a shouting match between two strangers yelling about Biden’s proposed tax plan.

‘’He’s going to raise your taxes. He even said so,” screamed the middle aged walker on the other side of the street. His tirade was meant for a bicyclist who apparently was wearing a Biden tee shirt. ‘’That’s not how it works. Go back to school,’’ the cyclist yelled back.

I shouldn’t have been surprised that two random strangers felt it was necessary to argue politics on a peaceful oceanfront street. When I returned to Ft. Pierce a few weeks earlier after being away for four months, I was amazed at the number of Trump flags flying behind trucks and boats and hanging on homes in most sections of the county. After all, until four years ago when St. Lucie County went for Trump, the county was considered a Democratic stronghold. Apparently the Trump win in 2016 was not an anomaly. The county, considered a blue collar, working class entity between its wealthier conservative counties to the north and south, was turning red.

Additionally, the presidential race was unlike any we have ever seen. The COVID pandemic, which at this writing has taken more than 300 lives in St. Lucie County, led to more dissension. Mask mandates or not? Restaurants and bars —open or close?  Dr. Anthony Fauci, friend or foe?  Everything about the pandemic was up for debate.

The campaign has divided families, strained friendships and kept record numbers of viewers glued to cable TV news the last few months. Our family was no different. My two brothers, to the amusement of our relatives and friends, often battle it out on Facebook.

Like the old Firing Line TV show, Steve, my liberal brother, would post anti-Trump missives, and our younger brother, Mark, would quickly respond with his conservative comments. A recent example from Steve: “Live your life in such a way that the entire planet doesn’t dance in the streets when you lose your job.’’ Mark’s response—a picture of Biden next to a supposed dead person thanking him for his vote.

My husband’s family was also quick to weigh in. Mike’s daughter-in-law, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, posted a profile picture of Kamala Harris next to a gallery of portraits of the former all white, male Vice Presidents. No words needed. Mike’s mother, however, was not too pleased with the election results. ‘’I think maybe I should not have gotten up this morning,” was her Facebook post the day the election was called. The family zoom call that evening did not end well either.

My daughter, a journalist working in Washington DC, often refers to herself as “Switzerland,’’ meaning she tries to stay neutral during the family political skirmishes. But for months she has been covering Republican voter suppression efforts and now is monitoring the Trump campaign lawsuits.  I am proud of her hard work and hoping the “Fake News” and “Enemy of the People” diatribes will gradually fade away. 

President Elect Joe Biden in his acceptance speech Saturday night urged Americans ‘’put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again.’’ I will be taking the temperature of my family members in the upcoming weeks and will let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, I am somewhat heartened to see our neighborhood return to almost normal. All but one of the Trump signs and all of the Biden signs were removed from the front lawns shortly after Biden was declared the winner. And my four-mile walk this weekend was as peaceful as ever. 

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