November 4, 2020: the First Day of Rest of Your Life

Photograph Source: Sarah Altendorf – CC BY 2.0

Whatever the outcome on Tuesday, November 3, the next day, November 4, will be the first day of the rest of my life and a day of reckoning. Maybe it will also be the first day of the rest of your life. I know, too, that the outcome might not be decided by November 4.

In the days and weeks ahead, I imagine that I will either breathe a sigh of relief or else take deep breaths and prepare for four more years of Donald Trump, the Republican faithful, the Proud Boys and more protests, marches and outrage. November 4th will also be like almost any other day. I will get up, take my meds, make breakfast, check my messages and get to work.

No matter who wins, nothing big on the horizon will change immediately. The police will go on shooting Black people, drones will kill long distance, gamblers will lose money in Las Vegas and the temperature of the air and the water will keep on rising. It’s too late to buy guns and form militia or stockpile suicide pulls. There’s no place on the planet where one can run to and hide from civil wars, drug wars, cold wars and hot wars. They’re almost everywhere, and borders are more difficult to cross then ever before. In 1964 I escaped to England. That option no longer exists.

No amount of money can protect the wealthy from greenhouse gasses, cancer and Covid-19, though lots of money may provide better medical treatment than little or no money. Trump has had the kind health care he wants to deny everyone else.

We’re all in this together, though we’re not all in the same boat. If you’re white and male and wealthy you… You can fill in the rest of the sentence.

I remember emailing a friend after George Bush became president in 2001 and wondered about my options. “Stay the course,” the friend told me. I’ve been doing the same ever since. I expect I’ll do the same in the days after Election Day 2020, though I will want to confer with friends and family and ask, “What’s to be done?”

I never thought I’d be turning to Lenin, at this juncture of my life, but here I am doing just that. In his 1901 pamphlet “What is to be Done?: Burning Questions of Our Movement,” Lenin argued that “class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from outside the economic struggle.The sphere from which alone it is possible to obtain this knowledge is the sphere of relationships (of all classes and strata) to the state and the government, the sphere of the interrelations between all classes.” That sounds about right, though I would add, the sphere of the relationships between all genders and sexes and ethnic groups. We’ll need to go out and about, talk to friends as well as enemies and those in the middle.

The future will not be a time to shut down, barricade oneself in a room and take vows of silence, though I might want to take a day or two or even a week off, regroup and wonder what is to be done in the decade ahead that sad to say doesn’t look promising for life on planet Earth. It will take bravery to stray from comfort zones, but it seems more necessary than ever before. I have to remind myself that I am not alone. Neither are you. This is just the beginning.

Jonah Raskin is the author of Beat Blues, San Francisco, 1955.