We the people, drawing up the covers, slapping the alarm, will finally get out of bed. Coffee, probably. Bowl of Cheerios, plate of eggs. Or maybe nothing, if the cupboard is bare. It will be cold outside, except in such places as Miami, where the palms will rustle in a warm November wind. Many of us will miss someone, having just remembered they’re still gone.
There are more than 255 million adults in this country, according to a 2019 US census report. On Tuesday, each of their hearts will beat about 100,000 times, pumping blood whose color is unaffected by race or political stripe. “We are all people,” a young American named Givionne “Gee” Jordan Jr. told police officers in Charleston, South Carolina, on May 31, during the George Floyd protests, in a brief and impassioned speech that was captured on video and seen on Twitter more than 30 million times. “All of you are my family!” The pandemic has brought families closer, with more than half of adults from ages 18 to 29 now living with their parents. On Tuesday, millions of these mothers and fathers and daughters and sons will cast their votes, many of which will cancel each other out, and then they’ll go home together for lunch.
“We’re all scared,” Jordan said five months ago, and today we still are. Scared of the virus. Scared of a constitutional crisis. Some even scared of another civil war. The first one was fought as far west as Arizona, in the little-known Battle of Picacho Pass, and on Tuesday the Grand Canyon State will be a “battleground” once again. “I am not your enemy,” Jordan, who is Black, told the officers, many of whom were White. “You are not my enemy.” A Harvard poll taken in July found that 92% of Americans support racial equality. And 71% said we “have more in common with each other than many people think.” All of us have faced calamity this year. On Tuesday, California will burn again, as it did the day before, and the day before that, ever since late spring, in a cruel and nonpartisan series of natural disasters from Oregon to Colorado to Iowa to Louisiana to Alabama to Tennessee, among other places, the rain falling equally “on the just and unjust,” the wind sounding, as always, like a “big huge train.” The sun will set and the polls will close, and some uncountable number of Americans will stand there silently weeping at the kitchen sink.
“I cry at night, because I feel your pain,” Jordan told the police, in a voice worn thin from exhaustion. He paused for a deep, agonal breath, a little sob, and went on imploring them. The video showed a line of officers with dark uniforms and long clubs. No doubt they were exhausted, too. Downtown Charleston had seen violence after protests the night before, with blood and fire and broken glass. The police cracked down on large gatherings the next day. They said Jordan was among several dozen protesters who refused to disperse.
“We have to share this land no matter what,” he said. “By the end of the day, we have to share this land no matter what.” The officers held their line. We live in bubbles these days, in rooms glowing blue with artificial light, and we are less and less likely to heed unfamiliar voices or opposing views. We are told the other guys are evil. And that if our side loses this election, America is finished.
“I would love to come to your house,” Jordan told the officers. “I would love to meet your kids. I would love to meet your family. I would love to see the best side of everybody here…Someone might have a bad day. You say they’re a bad person. No, no, no. We’ve all got bad days. We’ve all got bad days. We’ve got to stop judging people only on our bad days.”
Daylight on this American Tuesday will stretch across almost 18 hours, concluding at the western edge of the Aleutian Islands just before 7 p.m. local time, midnight Eastern, by which time we may or may not have a clue which side is victorious. Many of us will be in bed by then, or nervously watching television, jaws clenched, wringing our hands, roughly 330 million people under the same flag, deciding together what it still means. “How are you on your good days?” Jordan asked the officers. There was movement along the police line, two officers conversing, as if making a plan, and the line opened, and a cop in a gas mask walked forward and grabbed Jordan by the left arm. He did not resist. Later the Charleston police chief would say he was arrested for refusal to obey lawful orders. The officers pulled him away. The dark blue line closed again.
We’ve all got bad days, and long nights: lying awake, angry at someone, sick of ourselves and sick of this year. Remember Jordan’s words tonight, and tomorrow, wherever this all goes next. I am not your enemy. You are not my enemy. We have to share this land no matter what.