Yesterday I spent the day near Detroit with Election Defenders, outside a polling place in Inkster supporting voters and watching out for voter intimidation. I was recruited and trained for this role through UU the Vote, who directed me to Election Defenders: a non-partisan, Black-led, multiracial organization. During my 8-hour shift I met four other Unitarian Universalists (from Ann Arbor and Traverse City), some ministers and some lay people, doing the same work. And I greeted dozens—probably hundreds—of voters as they came and went from the polling place. I wore a clerical collar to indicate my clergy status and a bright yellow sweatshirt to indicate my affiliation with the non-partisan Election Defenders. It was a long and tiring day.
Before I even left home in the morning on election day, I was moved by a Facebook post from my friend Cindy (also a UU) doing similar work to what I was about to do. She was in Cudell Park, Cleveland—the place where Tamir Rice was shot and killed. The recreation center there is a polling place, and they were serving coffee and free breakfast to early voters. Cindy stood with a sign saying “Voter Assistance Here,” and the caption to her photo said, this is what democracy looks like.
We show up to make voting safe and smooth in neighborhoods where Black, Indigenous, People of Color are the majority of voters—voters whose rights have been suppressed. We show up because we believe in democracy as a human right and as one of our religious values as Unitarian Universalists. We who recognize our privilege seek to serve those who have less privilege.
It was a hard night listening to the election returns. This morning was better, but still bad. As I write, it looks like Trump will win Ohio by 8 percentage points and Biden will win Michigan by a fraction. Biden just may eke out a win in the electoral college. That matters….and it also matters that half of the voters in this country will have voted for Donald Trump. This, after four years of seeing his racism, his bullying, his lying, his selfish and destructive behavior.
This realization leads me to conclude what I must do in response: to hold what and whom I love more fiercely; and to work with greater dedication to create loving community. These are the antidotes, personally and socially, to the values represented by President Trump and by the many people who enable him. There is a clarity and hope in this realization: I can do what I can do. I don’t have control over national elections or public figures, or over the opinions of others, but I have control of my life and my work. As this election ends, the further work begins for love and justice and community.
Spirit of Life and love, God who blesses Maine and Oklahoma and Idaho and Texas, be with this nation today and show us the lessons of this election. Show us how to understand one another beyond the coarse language of voting; show us what our fellow Americans want and what they fear; what they know and what they grasp to understand.
May there be understanding and forgiveness, compassion and hope in Michigan and Ohio and California. May dialogue replace the shouting of slogans, may friendships be healed.
May it be so.
Rev. Andrew Frantz