It is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, 2016. November 8, the latest date on which the election of the President of the United States can occur. And it is fitting for a campaign season which has seemingly lasted forever.
What is most striking about today is not who wins or loses but how the game is now played. There is an ugliness and a brutality that makes this seem more like a scene out of a video of a country in an ever descending spiral of self destruction.
As I head over to cast my vote for my candidate of choice, I am gripped with an overwhelming sense of foreboding. The President has declared a state of martial law and the National Guard is everywhere I look. There are calls for calm but this is a nation which has been in perpetual unrest for months.
It began early this year at Donald Trump rallies where he flexed his oratorical muscles by wishing bodily harm upon those who disrupted his train of thought. As the anti Trumpers were paraded out, in a kind of perp walk through a crowd in the throes of hyperventilation, they were subjected to verbal, and in some memorable instances, physical abuse. The smiles and shouts of their now sworn enemies following their every step.
Matters only escalated as the protests moved from inside the halls where Trump spoke to the streets outside. From Georgia to Louisiana, from California to seemingly everywhere Mr. Trump appeared in the spring of 2016, there was trouble. The bitterness and the blood began to flow, the anger multiplied and the chasm grew so wide that we had to develop new language to describe what was happening. It has been the year of Armageddon, where the divided state of America was locked in an Uncivil War, where unrest and arrest has become unhappy partners in crime, where the injuries and animosities piled up.
It is 6 PM and the last flickers of daylight are starting to recede. It is an unusually cold day, the kind where the chill refuses to leave your side. I am but two blocks from where my ballot will be cast and I dare not make eye contact with those near me, for I must not engage in conversation, no matter how polite or innocent it may seem.
The polls will close in two hours. Three hours from now everyone is to be off the streets. This city, normally teeming with humanity at 9PM will be eerily silent if all obey the mandate. The only movement that of men in uniform.
I walk past the shuttered up stores, the gates girding for possible onslaught, the proprietors fearing that forces beyond anyone's control will cascade down and leave in their wake physical and emotional destruction of this place and of endless cities, towns, boroughs and hamlets around this nation.
There are no lines as I approach my polling venue. Most have either voted before today, or have decided that the risk for being out on the street is not worth the reward. I deliberately chose to wait until now, in a kind of perverse determination to get a first hand feel and look at what we had become.
I walk to the line for L to P. There are only two who stand in front of me, ready to check in. There is a palpable anxiety, or maybe it is just that my heart is beating at an alarmingly rapid pace. For a moment I think I might need to sit down, but I steady myself.
This is a room I have been in for the last four Presidential elections and for all the ballot casting I had done in those "off" years. But I have never noticed the peeling paint, the stains on the floor, the age that had overtaken this place. Today I am focusing on everything but the humanity around me. No small talk, no exchange of pleasantries.
I enter the booth and pull the curtain around me like armor to shield me from piercing eyes. I press my finger against the box intended and the "x" illuminates next to the name of the person I believe will soon have to try to bring calm out of this chaos. A sense of relief grips me as I feel the endless months of being held prisoner by this process are finally over.
It is almost 7PM by the time I return to my apartment. The walk back is the loneliest I can recall in all the years I have traversed this path.
There is a harsh wind blowing, filling the air with isolation and desperation. It is in the bones of this country and it has penetrated the core of our being. Our fate will be determined and our faith in this country will be tested as few times before in the coming hours and days. It is fully dark now, and as cold inside and out as I can ever recall on an Election day.