by W.D. Ehrhart
I have been feeling increasingly bleak and anxious ever since last March. And these past couple of weeks, as the presidential election has loomed larger and larger, have left me almost dysfunctional. The thought of another four years of this Monster in the White House left me wallowing in the depths of despair because suicide is not a viable option, and I’m too old and not rich enough to emigrate to any country I’d be willing to spend my last years in, but I have felt that I could not endure another four years of this Monster. Some of the fantasies I’ve been having lately have been so vivid that they have frightened me.
And then Friday morning, November 6th, my cat caught me in an unguarded moment, and I realized that she had no idea what is going on, and moreover could care less. She is happy with food, warmth, and attention. And it made me think hard about the frame of mind I’d worked myself into lately. I ended up writing this poem:
Beanie the Cat
November 6th, 2020
Anne and I have been holding our breath
for three days, trying not to think,
or feel, or contemplate the implications
of another four years of madness
if our current president should win,
astounded it should be so close
we still don’t know who won.
What kind of country could this be
to have so many voters ready
to return to office such a man?
Dishonest, criminal, amoral,
ignorant, uncaring, vile. A grifter.
One struggles to avoid despair.
But then there’s Beanie, curled up
beside my wife, sound asleep. She’s
had her breakfast, asked and gotten
some attention, belly scratched, ears
massaged, green eyes almost iridescent,
happy, I suppose, at least content
if purring signifies contentment.
What goes on behind those glowing eyes
we’ll never know, but she’s not worried
in the least about elections, this
or any other. She’s got us. Moreover,
we’ve got her. Reason enough, perhaps,
to face whatever’s coming next.
Only 24 hours later, Biden finally collected Pennsylvania’s Electoral College votes, giving him 273 and the election, and the circumstances that gave rise to my poem disappeared. The magnitude of my relief has so far been beyond expression.
Of course, we still have the problem of some 70,000,000 fellow citizens who—is there a polite way to say this—have their heads so far up their backsides that they can see daylight. Already I am trying not to think about 2024, knowing that Trump may be vanquished, but the Trumpsters and Trumperdom are here to stay. Since most of them are aging white men, however, I hope we can outlast them. Well, not me,actually—I’m as aged as they are—but my daughter and the generations who still have a future ahead of them. They may live long enough to see the demographics of this country change enough to leave aggrieved white men and their benighted partners politically irrelevant.
But this is no time to sit back and gloat, or even bask in the relief so many of us are feeling, as if we are finally out of the woods. Our task now is to put pressure on a Biden Administration to keep its promises and act on progressive issues like climate change, health care, racial justice, and income inequality.
My own daughter voted for Biden only with extreme reluctance, believing—rightly so, in my opinion—that Biden represents the kind of politics-as-usual that led to the election of Donald Trump in the first place. The Democratic Party has this one last chance to make itself worthy of my daughter’s vote.
As fervently as I wished for the defeat of Donald Trump, I hope Joe Biden and his party understand this and act accordingly.
W. D. Ehrhart has voted in every election—general, primary, and special—since he first became eligible to vote in 1972 (he was not allowed to vote during his time in the U.S. Marine Corps because the voting age was then 21: old enough to kill, not old enough to vote—yet people think it was the antiwar crowd who disrespected returning veterans).