There is a scene in Ernesto Sabato’s Argentine novel Heroes and Tombs (1961) where Alejandra, one of the principle characters, enters a dark room and feels accosted by the monsters of the night. Her simple answer to these perceived danger was to turn on the lights.
America has responded in much the same way to the existential threat to our democracy. The citizen’s right to vote, a simple but powerful tool, was effectively exercised to bring back our country from the brink of authoritarian rule or to continue on the same path.
Over 100 million mail-in and walk-in votes were cast before the official day of the election in a calculated response to the danger of tyranny. This points to the fact that we have reached a pivotal point in our history where Americans feel the urgency to make a statement on the founding principles underlying our way of life.
Among my several memories of infancy was an image of my father pouring over a newspaper in Spanish trying to read about the progress of World War II. He had taught himself to read with great difficulty as he had only 3 months of formal education.
But it was a pivotal moment for the country and he felt a responsibility to do something. He read at great sacrifice.
But since he had been rejected by the draft process, working the fields for the war effort was not always enough as there so many families mourning the loss of loved ones in battle. At the same time, the country was on its way to becoming the superpower and defender of freedom around the world.
It has been a long time since the United States exerted its industry and will to achieve and become the “Greatest Generation.” Just like the American Revolution, the Civil War and the wars to make the world safe for democracy, we are in a moment that is transformational in the long effort to become “a more perfect union.”
Americans came out in droves to make a statement to ourselves and to the world. When our leadership fails, the remedy for the everyday citizen is the vote.
It is an epic moment that dwarfs the many self-serving manipulations of the small-minded and those that forget that the country comes first. It is a reminder that in America, political power does not come out of a barrel of a gun but from the simple acts that make our voices heard.
This great event also illustrates the fact that democracy and the democratic process is cumbersome and full of difficulties. Yet we have come out in the middle of a pandemic and other major threats to our personal and national security and drove the miles or stood in the long lines to cast our vote and decide our country’s future.
Let that be a lesson to other would be dictators that come to invade our democratic institutions and the principles they stand for. We are Americans and say that in this time of danger to our freedom by walking to the voting booth to confirm that very idea.
This election is a watershed moment that stands as a new beginning. Beyond our health and well being we have the task of repairing the damage to our institutions and our standing around the world.
There is no turning back as much work is ahead of us.