Photo: Gage Skidmore
When I was in first grade, we had to crawl under our desks at school one day as part of some kind of drill. I think it had to do with the Cuban Missile Crisis and Being Prepared. Not long after that, my teacher held a mock presidential election, and I remember being proud to vote for George McGovern but worried my Dad would be upset I hadn’t picked Nixon. And not too long after that, my whole family ended up watching Tricky Dick resign on a big TV in my father’s office, high above Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.
And today, during a truly scary election, following a horrifying presidential campaign, crawling under my desk seems like a nice idea. Dusty but peaceful. No missiles flying above, but plenty to want to hide away from.
But I won’t. Instead, I’ll be awake with the sun, making my way to the ballot box, at my 10-year-old’s school this year, and probably waiting in a long line. I could’ve voted early, last week, but I like tradition. I’ll give a nice volunteer person behind a card table my name and address. I’ll scribble my signature somewhere, and then some other nice volunteer person will direct me to the voting machine. I’ll be nervous and excited, worried that my vote will somehow get lost along the way.
I lived in Argentina in the 1990s. There much to be said about that experience that recommends the place: the food, the beauty of Buenos Aires, the friends I made, how my Spanish got better, and my worldview got wider. But it was a country only twenty years removed from a period of great upheaval, the brutal military dictatorship of the 1970s. A country had been highjacked by terror from inside. Innocent people were murdered, babies stolen. It was a terrible, frightening time for the country, the scars that were left likely permanent.
I saw souvenirs of this time everywhere—in the economic uncertainty that simmered just below the surface of everything, the grandmothers protesting the disappearances of their children every Thursday, political chaos that screamed from billboards, a sense that the government really had no idea what they were doing.
Thugs took over Argentina in the 1970s. I spent a lot of time thinking about how it must have been back then. And in my mind, when I picture them, those thugs look and sound a lot like Donald Trump.
Trump is not an anomly. Thugs have been around forever. Sometimes they gain power, and often millions suffer before somehow power is wrested away from them.
I’ll cast my vote and watch the returns come in, holding my anxious breath along with the rest of the country. And if Donald Trump wins, I won’t be under that desk, as much as I’ll want to be. I’ll be standing up to that thug however I can.