Winter is Coming 

I have a one-legged grasshopper. Well, I don't actually have him, but he lives in our yard and he's quite a specimen — a good three inches long, with a lime-green torso and a bright yellow stripe running down his back. I first spotted him munching on a canna lily blossom about three weeks ago. He didn't move, even as I got within a few inches to take some photos.

It was then I noticed he was missing his right rear leg — you know, one of the two big ones grasshoppers use to jump. It didn't seem to bother him much, though, and after posing for a few more shots, he launched himself and flew away.

click to enlarge BRUCE VANWYNGARDEN
  • Bruce VanWyngarden

I figured a one-legged grasshopper probably didn't have much of a future, but he kept hanging around. A week later, I saw him in the black-eyed Susans, and a few days after that, climbing around on the butterfly bush. Yesterday, as I began to water the tomatoes, he popped out and flew right at my head. Cheeky monkey.

I've grown a little attached to this guy. Or girl. Something nipped off his leg, but he hasn't let it mess up his summer. Which, let's be honest here, is basically all the time on the planet he's going to get.

We're all living a bit like that grasshopper, aren't we? We're all missing something. Big chunks of our lives have disappeared, and we keep having to adapt — to change the way we travel, eat, go to school, go to the store, go to work, and vote.

That last item is about to become the most important one on the list. In the last presidential election, 33 million Americans voted by mail. You didn't hear much about it because it was no big deal. It's been happening for many election cycles. Residents of 35 states are able to vote by mail as a matter of course. As are military personnel or anyone (by absentee ballot) who will be away from their voting precinct on Election Day. Now, with the COVID crisis, nine more states are allowing vote-by-mail for citizens who fear going to the polls in person, though in many states, a mail-in ballot needs to be requested.

It's fair to say that millions more Americans will vote by mail in 2020 than did in 2016. It's also fair to say that the Trump administration is doing its best to make it more difficult to vote by mail by knee-capping the U.S. Postal Service — removing sorting machines and eliminating employee overtime in the midst of a pandemic, and two months before a critical election. Meanwhile, the president is openly working to delegitimize the election results in advance.

Here's a nightmare scenario: On election night, millions of mail-in ballots are not counted by the end of the day, meaning final results for many states aren't known immediately, though we will know who's leading. But it's quite possible there could be a few days where we don't know the absolute final results of the election in several states. We might have a pretty good idea who won, but not with total certainty.

Those days will likely be a horror show. If he's losing, Trump will declare the election a hoax; hell, he's already doing that. He will summon his attorney general to instigate legal challenges to the results in as many states as possible. He will not concede. He will rally his base; he will stoke unrest; he will give a wink and a nod to white supremacists and QAnon wackos. He will incite chaos. Count on it. It's what he does; it's who he is.

Early voting in Tennessee runs from October 14th through October 29th. If there is any way you can get yourself to a polling place during those two weeks, I implore you to do it. The primary in-person voting process was extremely safe. Everyone was masked, distancing was enforced, wooden sticks were issued so that your finger didn't have to touch a voting machine. Pens were given away so you could sign in without contacting something touched by another person. I would extend this advice to those living in other states, as well. Mask up, show up at a polling place, vote as if your life depends on it.

We are less than 70 days from what will be a very bumpy ride for democracy and justice and the American system of governance. It's our moment to show courage, to speak truth to bullies and crooks, to make certain our votes are counted. There's no room for complacency or apathy. We stop this now or it all falls apart.

The time for patience is past, Grasshopper. Winter is coming.

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