What We Envision

Like the stillness in the wind before the hurricane begins . . .

Dylan’s “When the Ship Comes In” has been one of my most favorite songs since my college antiwar activist days. I still know all the words, but my mind is playing that line over and over again. I don’t add — I try not to even think — the next line:

The hour that the ship comes in

In the song the ship’s arrival is all about change for the better, a world “where the sun will respect every face on the deck” and “Goliath will be conquered.” The song is a celebration of hope for the future.

I’m afraid that the ship coming in, the one that arrives on election day, is bringing bad news. I’m doing my best to take Dan Pfeiffer’s advice to “get off the Pollercoaster”:

Two weeks until the election, the “Pollercoaster” is in full effect. Every day brings a barrage of new polls and a fresh wave of terror about the outcome of the election. The polls are tightening in races that seem in hand, and they are widening in longer-shot races in which we thought we had a chance. Even the polls with positive news for Democrats are dismissed out of legitimate fears that they are biased against Dems. Political reporters are relishing the opportunity to make Democrats suffer. . . .

Thing is, I’m not obsessed with polls. My fears have more to do with a long string of missed opportunities and a house whose entire structure has gone rotten from lack of attention and endless procrastination.

“The Boy Who Cried Wolf” is in there too. Apocalyptic rhetoric is epidemic during campaign season. I was only 13 when the presidential election pitted LBJ against Barry Goldwater, but I still remember the slogan —

Goldwater in ’64
Cold water in ’65
Bread & water in ’66
No water in ’67

Every time an election rolls around, we hear so many dire predictions of what’s going to happen if our opponent wins that we screen them out. When dire things do happen after our opponent wins, but not to us, we screen that out too. Not until 2016 did many of us start seeing, really seeing, the fissures in the house we were living in. (Anyone else remembering Edgar Allan Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher”?)

So now, with many wide-awake and intelligent people warning that “our democracy is at stake,” I have zero trouble imagining plenty of voters thinking “Oh yeah, here we go again” or “So what?” Inflation has a more tangible effect on them than an abstraction called “democracy,” and they know so little about what causes inflation that they think voting for Republicans is their best hope of fixing it, even though the Democrats didn’t cause it and the Republicans have no economic plans worth discussing. Maybe these voters have been so swayed by the continual drumbeat of “election fraud” that they think that the electoral process is corrupt, just like Congress. (They may actually have a point about Congress.) If they do vote and their (Republican) candidates don’t win, the election must have been stolen.

Come to think of it, whenever I hear myself going on about the importance of democracy and how this election probably is the most important one of my lifetime, a little voice in my mind is sneering “Sucker!”

What it comes down to is that I don’t have much faith in my fellow Americans, especially my fellow white Americans, to realize what the stakes are and vote accordingly. Some of them may indeed realize what the stakes are and have decided that if democracy is multicultural, multiracial, and not 100% Christian, they want no part of it.

Yes, there are reasons for hope. The overwhelming Kansas vote in support of abortion right is one of them, and boy, am I clinging to it. Tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of my fellow Americans are canvassing, talking to friends and neighbors, contributing to campaigns, signing up to be poll workers or to help people cast their ballots easily and safely, and so on. The forces arrayed against us are vast, but hey — David and Goliath, remember?

Screenshot of women at Zoom sing
Zoom sing with Susan Robbins, August 2020. Susan is in the upper-left corner and I’m on her right. I’ve blacked out everyone else’s name.

I’m also hoping that the cosmos is on our side. Since the pandemic started, I’ve been participating most Wednesdays in Susan Robbins’s Zoom sings for women. Group singing on Zoom may seem strange because we can’t hear each other, but it’s been pretty wonderful. Susan teaches each song line by line and then we sing it. Some of the songs are from Libana’s repertoire (Susan is the founder/leader of Libana, whose roots go back to 1979 and whose music comes from all over the world), some have identifiable composers, some are “traditional,” which is to say we don’t know who wrote them.

This past Wednesday we sang, not for the first time, “Dark of the Moon,” a three-part round by Karen Beth. It’s all about how the dark of the moon is a time for new beginnings, planting seeds and helping them grow. This is the third part:

Dark of the moon
What we envision
will come to be
by the full moonlight

We were singing, Susan said, in the dark of the moon — and the moon will be full again on the morning of election day, at 6:02 a.m. eastern time. So I’m holding on to that: that all the work, all the envisioning, we’ve been doing during the dark of the Trump years and its aftermath will bear fruit on election day and that what we’ll see is not the death of democracy but a renaissance and recommitment to making democracy work for all of us.

There’s also a total lunar eclipse that night, by the way, which should be complete just before the moon’s peak fullness. Then the moon starts coming out of the earth’s shadow. Since, as Marge Piercy wrote, “the moon is always female,” I take that as a good sign too.


About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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1 Response to What We Envision

  1. Ellen T. Miller says:

    Reminds me of an old saying:  your ship won’t come in ‘til you row out to meet it.  I have to believe if we all work hard we can straighten out this mess but it is a lot like the 60s when all hell broke loose disrupting the established order. It’s very scary. Is there enough of a determined mass on our side?? I know all my kids are voting for dems in their respective states of MA, PA, and MI as are extended family and friends in NH, NJ, MD, DC, and CA but all are worried. Whatever happens it won’t be the huge shock of waking up to Trump as president, and it will be a long hard fight.  Do you think the hideous attack on Pelosi will have any positive effect in terms of waking people up?  Or the poor handling of the pandemic (great result in Brazil yesterday)?

    Ellen T. MillerP. O. Box 4456Vineyard Haven, MA, 02568508-693-7846*************************************It’s time to put the “civil” back in civilization…


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