We waited outside, the long lines stretching longer than the wait at a water park on a hot summer day. We waited, some of us standing, some of us in wheelchairs, some of us in our scrubs from our hospital jobs. We waited in the rain with dark umbrellas, the line crawling slowly until we finally arrived, rising with our blue masks pasted to our faces, glancing at the floor while keeping six-feet distance. Some of us were tired and unslept. Some of us were angry we didn’t vote by mail.
We waited in the light of day, for the rain to subside, and finally, inside the library room, the booths were packed with people like cans of sardines. Our hands trembled, our thoughts jittering in our brains like gnats scattered in the sunlight. The people so close to us, we could hear their breathing. The only thing preventing us from getting COVID-19 were the plastic separators in the booths and the coverings on our faces. We disinfected our hands after using the public pens, and now we knew a little of what people with OCD must feel every day.
We got our “I Voted” stickers and left the small room, and once again waited in the rain for another day when the country wasn’t led by a fascist-leaning president: a man who calls COVID-19 “the China virus,” who when asked to condemn white supremacists said: “stand back and stand by.” But enough of him; there are people dying from COVID-19, bodies piling, funerals unattended, a country in mourning with no place to grieve
Maybe one day we’ll break down the walls of that infamous house in Washington, D.C., a White House that was built by Black slaves. A symbol of systemic racism and deep inequality. Capitalism in the United States is this in a sentence: 1/10 of 1 percent of the population owning the lives of the working class. A system where corporations are legally considered people. Where “the economy” takes precedence over the lives of citizens, and where millions of people live in poverty.
Maybe one day we can finally say this is truly a democracy, a “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Maybe Lincoln’s words will not live in vain, and there will be “a new birth of freedom.” Or maybe we are living in the remains of democracy, and we are witnessing the rise of an oligarchy and the rise of another Hitler.