Vox Populi

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Dawn Potter: Letter from a Red County; or, The Election: A Love Story

Let me tell you about my friend.

She helped me raise my babies, at a time when I was lonely and overwhelmed and bewildered and not at all good at being a mother. Since then, she has suffered deep grief over the murders of three of her family members, a horror perpetrated by her own son-in-law. She has reacted to those deaths with nobility and grace. She has been on a mission to provide local police departments and domestic-violence shelters with funds for basic necessities for victims of similar terrors. But she is not comfortable with the label of activist. She is a gentle person–frail, self-effacing, sweet, and wryly comical, a woman who loves birds and flowers, Christmas cards and potluck suppers. And she is brave. The last time we went for a walk together, we saw a bear. We laughed and made big eyes at each other and then turned around and went home. She wasn’t scared, so I wasn’t scared. And yet the bear could have broken her, with an accidental swipe.

My friend also has a Trump sign in her front yard. The sight is painful, horrifying, almost obscene: akin to imagining Michelangelo’s David spray-painted with a swastika.

The town I live in is the sort of place that would make good fodder for a long-form New Yorker exposition of rural white working-class angst. Jobs have vanished, patriarchal structures are eroding, opioid addictions are ravaging families. There is misery; there is disbelief; there is deep loneliness. Someone must be to blame.

New Yorker articles make good reading. But I happen to live here. And my friend has a Trump sign in her yard, and we cannot talk about it. We cannot. Our friendship is predicated on a pivot of love: on “I see you, and you see me.” Argument does not enter into this realm.

My friend is not aware that New Yorker articles even exist. She does not read poems. She does not really read anything at all, except during Bible-study class. What my friend does is to bring me a small dish of homemade custard, because she knows I am living alone. She presents me with a dress, once worn by her dead daughter. She muses over the details of my sons’ babyhood. She shows me where the peregrine falcon is nesting.

I am voting for Hillary Clinton, and I sincerely hope she is victorious. I believe that Donald Trump is a menace to our nation. I see this election as a stark choice. But friendship is also a stark choice. When we commit to loving our neighbors, we commit to difficulty and ambiguity. That in itself is a stark choice.

Copyright 2016 Dawn Potter

10 comments on “Dawn Potter: Letter from a Red County; or, The Election: A Love Story

  1. Nitin Singh
    March 6, 2017

    Wow! I have no words remaining over my mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. daniel r. cobb
    November 7, 2016

    Wow. I’ve discovered a new author. Beautiful piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gail Gall
    November 6, 2016

    Beaufully written! One of the most challenging activities in the last year has been to avoid the chasms that separate us politically, to respect another’s viewpoint. We’ve drenched ourselves in the sera of political debate. I think we are all hoping for a cleansing rain, clear victory, and moving on. The road will be rougher.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. pollybrown2013
    November 5, 2016

    For me it’s family members, evangelicals, who feel so strongly about the abortion issue that they are effectively one issue voters. Some of them are planning not to vote at all, and I’m actually grateful for that. I live at a distance from all of them, and don’t know what’s on their lawns; I’m sure it would be harder if I did, and if I saw them frequently.

    Your description of your situation with your friend is so clear and brave and true and beautifully expressed, but I know that what I feel is more ambivalent. Is it patronizing to feel that most Trump supporters are voting against themselves? It seems to me that If Trump wins, many vulnerable people will be hurt–including many of his supporters, people who’ve voted for him. That seems to happen again and again, given the role of dark money and lies.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Vox Populi
      November 5, 2016

      Well said, Polly.


    • daniel r. cobb
      November 7, 2016

      I agree, Polly. Lies, false propaganda and slander seem to be taking over American politics. Our politics have never been immune to lies, but the last several years and much more so in this election, it feels to me that we have lost reverence for the truth. Political players use any and all tools to win, at all costs. Winning an election and losing democracy is not winning at all, unless the intention is to kill democracy in the US, through unrestrained lies, voter suppression and exclusion, gerrymandering, blocking all judicial appointments, and stonewalling the opposing party until the government simply ceases to function. This appears to me to be the goal, the endgame.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Dawn Potter
    November 5, 2016

    Thanks for this, Daniel. But clearly, there are lots of people out there who don’t agree with us.


  6. Daniel Burston
    November 5, 2016

    Thanks to Dawn Potter for a moving meditation on the meaning of friendship, courage, commitment and the ambiguities and vicissitudes of political life. No matter what the outcome of the election, the command to love your neighbor is not restricted to those who share your political views.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Vox Populi
      November 5, 2016

      Dawn, in politics if no one disagrees with you, then you know it wasn’t necessary to speak. This is a wise essay about an issue that all of us face.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dawn Potter
        November 5, 2016

        Thanks for giving me a place to speak; I’m very grateful.

        Liked by 2 people

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