Though we’ve known for four years that the 2020 US election cycle would be even more fraught than the strange and painful fall of the 2016 elections, most of us still find ourselves a little disoriented these days. For some, the urgency to remove Trump from office has immobilized us. For others, it’s fortified us into action to get out the vote and to sway those who are undecided, apathetic, and reluctant.
In the final five weeks before the election of a lifetime, we asked writers to consider the undecided voter and contribute compelling arguments and ideas for making the world right. Some contributors sent us work that takes on issues with precision and gravity. Others sent us different work, perhaps an even more visceral snapshot of this alarming moment — a one-act play, an open letter, a story of exile. New writing will be published weekdays; we believe its wisdom and strength will help us all navigate the uncertainty ahead.
On the day you cast your ballot in person, you have to be ready for anything — take your vitamins, do your stretches — because once you get in that line, here’s what’s going to happen: every single person will be wearing a mask. There will be a marching band and Black joy, drum majors and a drill team. There will be children with balloons filming TikToks. There will be food trucks giving away tortas and Korean barbecue. There will be Black and Brown and Asian American folx and South Asian folx and Native American folx smiling and talking happily. Happy to see each other alive. They’ll be saying things like, “This is how we do it in ChicagoPhillyElPasotheBronx.”
Yes the lines will be three hours long. Eleven hours. For some of us the line has been 500 years long. Some of us don’t have papers and can’t be in that line at all. Bring water. Talk with your neighbors in line about all those fools who do not wear their masks and how you’re hoping they may learn their lesson. How you’re hoping natural selection might finally extinguish white supremacy like the dinosaur that it is. And there will be DJs! Spinning vinyl with ’90s hip-hop, polkas, bachata, punta. And the sun will be out or it will be cloudy, but you will see the sun.
When it is finally your turn to cast your ballot, pray to your favorite deity. Maybe you don’t have one. Get one. Maybe your deity is Stone Cold Steve Austin or maybe it’s Dolly Parton. Mine is Coatlicue, a pre-Colombian goddess of creation and destruction. She wears human hearts and hands around her neck, her face is two snakes face-to-face. To turn things around, we pray to deities from the before time, monsters and mothers who are not afraid of blood.
I’m okay with you thinking differently, it’s just not okay to kill me because of it. And if you don’t feel that way, it’s because they’re not shooting at you. But the truth is, they’ve been shooting at all of us.
So let us cast a spell. Let’s picture official ballot boxes being protected by giant pink lights streaming down from the universe like a UFO beam — only instead of sending down more monsters, it’s a dome of protection, so that every vote may be counted. That same beam of light sets the electoral college on fire in the trashcan where it belongs. It surrounds gerrymandering and tells it to go fuck itself. And yes, we know this country is not for us, not for those of us who are Black, indigenous, people of color, queer, and working class. This place is built on our backs and on the graves of our families. We had to find our own ways to protect ourselves from the state, had to figure out how to live without its protection. We can disbelieve in this government and also participate in it. Look at us doing so many things at once. So picture all of this with me. Take a deep breath, put those shoes on, and get ready. Every day we get another chance to do it again. Bring your gods, your will, your rage.
If you enjoyed this essay, please share it with an undecided voter in your life, and please consider contributing to Al Otro Lado.
Vickie Vértiz is a writer from Bell Gardens. The oldest child of an immigrant Mexican family, Vértiz’s writing can be found in the New York Times magazine and the San Francisco Chronicle, among many other publications. Her book Palm Frond with Its Throat Cut won the 2018 PEN America literary prize in poetry. A recipient of fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, VONA, CantoMundo, and Macondo, Vickie teaches writing at UC-Santa Barbara.