We fought. OK, we can call it a passionate argument, but that’s just one level below a fight. I’m not telling you who, because this is a person close to me, someone with whom in the many years we’ve related we’ve never had anything but a brief exchange of harsh words that was immediately forgotten. And I don’t want their politics or any of their positions in life known after this. But we got to a new, ugly place yesterday.
And it was over politics.
As I write this, we still do not know who is the 45th President of the United States. Joe Biden has 264 electoral votes, six away from what he need stop become President; Donald Trump has 214. Only four states are left (Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona, and Georgia), and it’s taken this long because over 102 million people –yours truly included– voted by mail because, you know, COVID-19, and those take an absurdly long time to count. And it is literally neck-to-neck: the difference of votes in George is less that 0.1% in Trump’s favor (that’s less than 3,000 votes) with 50,000 left to count. Biden is up some 48,000 in Arizona (a state that both Associated Press and gasp Fox News called for him earlier today) but it’s shrinking. This looks like a done deal. Except…
A few minutes ago, POTUS gave a press conference where he doubled down on claims he’s been making all week –OK, all his presidency– about mail fraud. The money quote: “If you count the legal votes, I easily win. If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us, if you could the votes that came in late”. The truly amazing thing? Almost all major networks and NPR decided to cut the transmission when Trump started to lie. And CNN didn’t cut; they had Anderson Cooper.
I don’t intend to mince words: Donald Trump is trying to steal the election. An election that is close enough for him to be able to do it. Which just irks me in so many ways. In the words of TV host Jimmy Kimmel, “What more does Donald Trump has to do to show us that he’s insane and unfit to lead the country?” Here’s a man that reminds of almost every South American strongman I’ve seen –and in one case, ruled over me– and I consider a bully, a cheater, a liar, a sexist, racist homophobe who is a danger to the world… and half of the United States said, “Yeah, I know, let’s keep him for more years”.
I did not miss this feeling. I did not miss living through an election that rattled me so deeply, I cried from stress. I did not miss wondering what the hell my future looked like. Because no one can kid themselves: even if Biden wins, so will have the Republicans in the Senate to ensure they control it. Democrats will still control the House, yes, but all I can say is: so? Mitch McConnell will still be the majority leader in the Senate, and the pompous windbag had already proven to be an expert blocker during Obama’s presidency; do you really think that’s going to change during Obama’s VP in the Oval Office?
I didn’t miss the feeling of “you’re with us or you’re against us” on both sides. But especially shocking is the amount of vitriol on behalf of Trump supporter’s… by Venezuelans. I can’t really be amazed by how much my people, above all in Doral, love Trump; he did promise to take care directly of Nicolás Maduro, asking his aides whether he could invade Venezuela. What leaves me flabbergasted is that they would support another strongman after openly hating Chávez (you can argue with me all you want, and yes, Chávez was worse; but the parallels are there, whether you want to see them or not).
And then came the fight.
Which reminded me that some people do not support Trump just because. It’s because they fear what Biden could mean. It doesn’t help how much misinformation went through the Latino community, but it’s more than that. And I had been sort of… blind to it. It’s not just that Venezuelans have had to leave behind everything we knew because of what Chávez and Maduro and their cronies have done. It’s because we all suffer a form of PTSD. I am one of the luckier ones that was never mugged, never threatened with political violence, never had somebody close to me killed. My people do. Some of them were forced out of the country because of their activity against the Government. One was even shamed in national television, accused of being a murderer.
And then there’s the matter of Biden’s position regarding Venezuela. Many fear a repeat on Obama’s position, which, while denouncing the many violations the Chávez administration, was to ease sanctions, never direct confrontation. If Biden were to “normalize” relationships with the Maduro regime, there is a chance that all asylum applications are cancelled… which would mean that they risk being deported. And that would be a death sentence. (This episode of This American Life sent chills down my spine because it shows exactly that.)
So I can’t really ask them to support Biden. And while some have said they understand why I do, I feel the resentment. Some have called me naïve, others chiding me for voting for “what destroyed your country”. And others, without knowing my affiliation, call me “closet chavista“, “shit-eater” and other lovely nicknames. I just read them and say that it’s not personal, they don’t know, but I know it is personal. It’s as personal as it can be, as Venezuelans do. Because we bleed, still.
That is something I miss the least. That politics could drive a wedge between friends or family. That good people would fawn over a man that represents an attack on democracy because they fear that there could be something worse.
I did not miss any of this. I wish I could never had to go through any of this. But I have to. This is the world we are living in now, with Trumpism not going away even if Biden wins. Because Trump won by being a terrible human. And people said it was OK. It will inspire other politicians to do the same (heck, some took it further… and won).
So we have to find a way to live together and start healing. Because if there is one thing I do not want to relive, it’s the most powerful country in the world collapsing into a Mad Max dystopia. It’s not as fun as the movies make it out to be, I’m sure.
I want to not miss this.