Reminiscing

3 11 2020

It’s 4:45pm Tuesday 3 November 2020 in Western Australia right now, and the first votes on the day of the election in the US will start in 3 to 4 hours’ time. Let’s step back 4 years’ ago…

In late October/early November 2016, I was part of a quilting tour group to the US. We spent 21 days there, finishing up with nearly a week at the International Quilt Festival in Houston. Our trip took in the major cities of Boston and New York, and the magnificent fall colours of some New England states before we headed to Houston. We did a lot of travelling by bus through small towns in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York state, and Pennsylvania. Political yard signs were everywhere we went (they are rare in Australia).

We flew out of Houston to Dallas and back to Australia on the eve of the election (Monday 7 November 2016). It was a troubling time politically, and we all felt the occasional ominous (and incredulous) undertones of ‘what if?’ while we were in the US, especially in Texas.

All the pundits said it would be a landslide for Hillary Clinton, so there was hope too—hope that the US would set aside the other aspect to the ‘only white men’ precedent set for presidents prior to President Obama and elect an incredibly qualified woman.

I landed in Sydney around 7:30am on Wednesday 9 Nov 2016 and had a few hours to wait before my flight to Perth. The TV news channels in the Qantas lounge were doing wall-to-wall US election coverage, but as it was early in the counting, with the west coast etc. still to come in, no clear winner had emerged. Almost everyone was watching the screens, which was unusual.

I boarded my 4-hour flight to Perth. On arrival, I exited to the baggage claim area. Like every other flight, baggage takes a while to come through, so people mill around talking, waiting, checking their emails/messages, etc. watching the TV screens, and generally making the ambient noise of a crowd. But not this time. It was dead silent. You could hear a pin drop and the collective intake of breath and see the shaking heads and hands over mouths as it was clear that in those hours that we were in the air, the unthinkable had happened.

Remember, this was in Australia, a completely independent country from the US and on the other side of the world from it and not at all directly touched by the actuality of the election, just the economic and geopolitical aftermath that all countries experience when they are tied militarily, economically, and socially to another country. The shock was palpable.

In those four years since, so much has changed in the US, which I consider my second home. I’ve visited the US at least 40 times since my first trip in 1985 and my second in 1993, with annual visits (sometimes twice a year) since 2000. I was last there in 2019, and much of the hope and positivity I was so familiar with had dissipated. In its place was fear and despair, especially about the injustices wrought on those who look different to the ruling class, and concerns about the entire system of government and its three branches. There was also a lot of anger and rage, not overtly, but just below the surface. And poverty. Every small town I’ve travelled through over the past several years has had many stores boarded up, empty streets, rundown dwellings, but right next to those signs of abject poverty have been huge pristine white-painted churches with neat-as-a-pin carparks and not an inch of flaking paint to be seen (again, especially noticeable when you wander the backroads of Texas). And all this was before the coronavirus wreaked havoc on jobs, livelihoods, and a quarter of a million lives, plus untold millions more who continue to suffer from the ravages of this virus. The only stimulus check for Americans came in May, for $1200. For those who would find it hard to pay a $400 bill (some 40% of Americans in 2019, long before coronavirus), I can’t imagine how they have been surviving and coping for the past 6 months. My guess is they aren’t.

COVID-19 prevented me from going to the US this year, but I have no doubt the underlying simmering and festering of a country that has been so turned on its head by one man and his henchmen is far more pronounced and obvious than 4 years ago.

Update: 8 Nov 2020: I woke this morning to find that sometime in the six hours I’d been asleep, the election result had been announced and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be the next US President and Vice President. All day today, I’ve seen videos of jubilation in the streets of America, Tweets and messages of support from leaders of all countries of the world, positive headlines, and in many cases tears of relief from those marginalised by the current president who feel that a massive weight has been lifted from their shoulders. I just hope that the next 70 or so days between now and the inauguration are incident-free and that the current incumbent leaves without issue. Yes, that’s probably a vain hope. Massive rebuilding must be done to reassert America’s place on the world stage, and to combat the many decades-, and sometimes centuries-old problems it has regarding race, disenfranchisement, health care, and the current issues related to coronavirus and massive unemployment. This will not be an overnight fix, especially as the vote was very close, so half of those who voted will not be happy, but for today, the rest of the world celebrates the imminent return of democracy in the US.


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4 responses

3 11 2020
Mary Ed Williams

Thank you, Rhonda. We are truly rattled and hope we can survive the madness.Today is last voting day and just the start of more madness.
Mary Williams
North Carolina
Love your blogs.

3 11 2020
COLLETTIA BERRYHILL

Thank you so much for understanding what we are going through as a nation. Black lives do matter. My daughter as a Pastor, my other daughter as a physician are both going through the unthinkable in both professions with this horrible man in office. He has unleashed such hatred in our country. All I can say is, I stay on my knees in times like these. I pray for a new President and new peaceful country again. Blessings,

Sent from my iPad

3 11 2020
Pam

As an US citizen, I felt the same way in 2016, and I feel the same way now. I don’t think I have the nerve to watch continuous coverage today (and tomorrow and the day after), but I will check up by internet news. I have hope, but I don’t know how I will respond if the hope is dashed. And to see our major cities being boarded up because unrest is thought likely! How did the US becomes a third world country?

11 11 2020
Colorful Sisters

Reading this was just lovely 🙂

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