Emily Articulated: I don’t really want to write about politics

By Emily Erickson
Reader Columnist

Opening the creaky door, I heaved myself up into my newly acquired good, old truck. The broad, cracked, faux leather bench spoke of its many years being well used and loved, and I mumbled a reminder to myself to bring a blanket for the seat next time I took it out.

Turning over the key, the engine roared around me, shaking the cab and my entire body inside. I gripped the large, grooved wheel and pulled the gear lever until it clicked into drive, slowly easing my foot onto the gas. In a cacophony of crunching gravel, engine rumbles and creaky, worn metal, I rolled the truck onto the road.

Emily Erickson.

As buildings and homes and the edges of town meandered past my windows, and as little yellow dashes on the road extended beneath me, I began to sink into that warm place where thoughts swirl and ideas grow, creeping out from their hidden places because they finally have the freedom to do so.

When the thought swirls and tendrils in my brain grew heavy enough to cling to one another, forming a single question, I wondered aloud, “What should I write about this week?” Those thoughts extended into a reflection of the way I write, and how I try to connect through vulnerability, perspective and by giving voice to the things that take up the most real estate in my mind when I sit down at my computer. 

Like a film reel, my brain began flickering through images of candidate signs peppering lawns, voting reminders stuffed in mailboxes, debates booming on primetime TV, text message inquiries about my plans for Nov. 3, and declarations of political allegiance from friends and acquaintances on every social platform — solidifying into a single image and topic: Politics.

But, like a film reel abruptly running out and burning up, I concluded, “Absolutely not. I will not write about politics.”

Flipping my blinker and turning onto a long stretch of backroad, I wriggled in my seat until I reunited with blissful unawareness; where my body acted of its own volition as if anchored to my destination, and the deep part of my mind again consumed my consciousness.

I considered: Maybe I could write about politics, but in a way that examines the high-stakes nature of this election, with supporters of each party feeling like a victory by the other is the end of the world as we know it. 

Because of the intensity of the perceived (or actual) repercussions, the support of the candidate across the aisle feels like an assault on all that we hold dear. When the way we vote is so wrapped up in our identity and values, how can we possibly come back to a societal middle ground after it’s all over? 

As my foot moved from the gas to the break, preparing for another turn, I reconsidered. “No, I really don’t want to write about politics.”

Then, tall swaying trees began to blur in my side vision, and white and gold storybook clouds dolloped the sky before me. As I noted the way beams of light peered around a cumulus edge, another angle crept into my mind. What if my writing about politics was really just a nostalgic reflection of the first time I voted? I could describe the nervousness that filled my chest on voting day, and how my sweaty hands held my driver’s license, all because I’d never done anything so very adult before. 

With humor and self-deprecation, I could share how I dropped my pen inside the voting booth, promptly exiting its curtained interior with a single ballot bubble still unfilled, all because I was fearful that if I bent to pick it up, it might look like I was peeping into the voting booth next to me. 

As I described the way it felt to slide that important piece of paper into its designated slot, just maybe, I’d quietly remind someone of the beauty of democracy.

Or maybe, in writing about politics, I could circumvent politics altogether; speaking to the importance of empathy and our desperate need to cling to kindness now more than ever. I could share my personal struggle with maintaining the perspective that my neighbors are a woven tapestry of past experiences, unique struggles and complicated histories, all contributing to their social convictions and political stances. 

I thought: “When more people operate from a place of empathy, prioritizing listening over speaking and kindness over judgement, isn’t that how humanity is restored?”

But as I pulled the big truck into its destination, shaking my head as if to clear it from the swarming thoughts, I decided with finality, “No, I really don’t want to write about politics.”

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