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.
It’s 1992 at the Republican National Convention. I am fifteen years old. You, me, and my brother stand in the Astrodome in Houston, Texas. The arena holds fond memories for us — the rodeo, Willie Nelson in starry lights, funnel cake sticky on every finger. Today, in this packed stadium, people applaud Pat Buchanan. I hear: “radical feminism,” “no to abortion on demand,” “banning homosexual rights,” and “God’s country.”
When Phil Gramm walks on stage to deliver the keynote, I take my combat boots and the blue hair you must’ve hated but said nothing about, and walk as fast as I can away from the crowd and the rhetoric — like it’s poison in the air, like it’s chasing me. I shoulder my way out to the parking lot. While I wait for you, I look across the street at Astroworld: the Texas Cyclone makes its loop again and again, full of riders with their arms out of the cars, raised, fearless, and ready for the big drop.
We knew nothing then of what was to come of America.
It was true then, and still now, we might never see eye to eye on these issues. Our differences left a bruise, but time is running out to find common ground.
But I’ll try.
You raised two Democrats. Your son told me he brought your fifteen-year-old grandson to vote with him to “show him how it’s done.” He is a Flores too.
When I describe you, I say you are a Mexican, Republican, Conservative, Texan. You, of course, are more than just those words. You are caring. You are generous. You have given back to the Hispanic community. You are a self-made man.
Last month on the phone, we discussed politics for the first time in years. We talked about defunding the police. We talked about using the word “riots” as opposed to the word “protests.” I told you about marching in those rallies in Brooklyn. I heard you speak about ideas that did not feel like yours — words of fear, no longer hiding behind “family values.”
I asked you about what happened to the children at the border and you said, “That was the worst thing I’ve ever seen done in America by a sitting President.” Still you are undecided, because you were once a small businessman, because you looked at the “riots” and felt for the businesses that were ransacked. Maybe you still see your parents stacking cans in the window of their Texas country store, where every penny in the register meant food on the table. You worry about the taxes they will pay, and the opportunity, the fresh start you were afforded — gone.
I hear you.
But. Think of your grandchildren: two boys — and the divide they inherit as our people are freely called drug dealers, criminals, and rapists.
I will tell you about two Trump supporters in Boston who beat a homeless Latino man with a metal pipe, and then urinated on him. Asked by the arresting officer why they had done it, one of the attackers said, “Trump was right — all these illegals need to be deported.” During a press conference shortly thereafter, Trump said he hadn’t heard about the assault and told the crowd of reporters, “I will say, the people that are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again.”
I know that you, too, are passionate. I know that you, too, understand what striving for greatness feels like. I ask you to vote passionately on behalf of a Hispanic man like you, maybe just starting his business — for his future in this country.
I ask you now to vote for your grandkids who must live in this world; you have the power of choice right now — they do not.
I hope on this we can agree.
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Libby Flores is a 2008 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow. Her short fiction has appeared in American Short Fiction, Post Road Magazine, Tin House/The Open Bar, The Guardian, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. Libby holds an MFA in creative writing from Bennington College. She is currently completing a collection of stories. She lives in Brooklyn, but will always be a Texan. Find her at libbyflores.com