“You and I, we reject these narrow attitudes
We add to each other, like a coral reef
Building bridges on the ocean floor
Reaching for the alien shore
For you and me - We hold these truths to be self-evident
For you and me - We'd elect each other president
For you and me - We might agree
But that's just us
Reaching for the alien shore…”
—Rush, Alien Shore
Our fear filled the space between us like something rotten, killing our appetites, as if we'd unearthed something under the dining room table that should've been dealt long ago but instead was buried and forgotten. We talked of hate and divisiveness, the threat of civil war and death, of why a big part of our country felt so angry and disenfranchised. We talked of the future and our daughters' safety, where in many parts of the world, including our own country, they're still viewed as second class citizens and even slaves -- to be discounted, oppressed, abused, raped and killed.
I remembered thinking, Are they listening to this? Do they know what the hell we're talking about right now?
The girls played in the living room while we talked and our volume escalated with our fears. Neither seemed to be paying attention, but I remember the ugly fights my abusive father and mother had growing up, so we can never be sure. This wasn't that, only a heated discussion, but still disruptive to childhood. While we talked, I thought that I hadn't had such dark, visceral thoughts since the heart of the great recession, where we nearly lost everything and had to reinvent and reinvest ourselves to survive with two very young children.
Our democracy is tenuous even in the best of times, and time and again we've nearly brought it to its knees. Today combined with ever-changing global economics, perpetually polarized politics, and contentious social change and backlash -- and it all goes to hell pretty quickly. And now with blatant racism and sexism, voter intimidation, threats of violence and war, and unfortunately so much more, it's all washed away the middle of the road like a sulfurous red tide. It's a wonder the Mama and I don't have these serious dinnertime discussions every night of late.
Thank goodness that recently there was a fresh breeze that blew through our community and carried away the smell of democratic decay. It came in the form of a beloved annual holiday, full of frightful fun and a rich neighborly tradition delivering many more treats than tricks: Halloween. I have nothing but fond memories of Halloween and this year was no exception for our family, even with the perennial fake news of poisonous candy and razor blades buried deep inside caramel apples.
There we all were, the parents, many of us who knew each other because our children go to school together, walking along like peaceful protestors in the middle of the street. Our children ran frenetically from door to door, giddy with the immortality of what happens next and the treats they'd get from the generous neighbors who opened their well-lit homes, offering sweet smiles as well as candy.
This played out for us street after street, and later after the girls were in bed, we talked about how nice the evening was, and we imagined that's how it played out on similar streets across America. On a day and night where we celebrate the dead and faux frights, and in a time of unprecedented political dysfunction and echoes of societal outrage past, it reminded us of how we can and do celebrate one another, our communities, our country. Either way it goes, we hope we all remember that on November 9 and in the years to come.