poseidon america

Back in 1972…no, wait. Earlier. 1969, a sportswriter-turned-novelist named Paul Gallico published a story about an aging ocean liner on its final voyage before being turned into scrap. Three years later, it’s turned into a movie. The Poseidon Adventure.

The SS Poseidon, traveling from New York City to Athens over the New Year holiday. The greed-head corporate owners, to save money on fuel, send the ship off with minimal ballast. Right there, you know everything, somehow, is going to go Oh Shit. And it does, right on schedule, New Year’s Eve, as the passengers are celebrating. An undersea earthquake creates a massive tsunami. Seriously massive. It hits the ship and, because of the lack of ballast, the ship is completely capsized. It literally turns upside down.

Hell, upside down. Who will survive? You guys, that was the 2016 election. We are the unlucky semi-innocent passengers on the ship when it’s hit by the calamitous, unpredictable wave. The people who should have been in charge are gone, replaced by inexperienced amateurs who tell us to keep calm and do what they say. If we obey and don’t ask a lot of pesky questions, they assure us that pretty soon the world will be all bluebirds and peach pie. A LOT of the passengers believe them.

The rest of us have spent the last 46 months trying to find some way to clamber up from the promenade deck, which is suddenly at the bottom, to the hull, now at the top, in the hope that we can manage to find a way out of the shambles. Sure, we’re being led by an annoying somewhat out of touch preacher, a semi-corrupt cop, and some smart-ass know-it-all kid, but at least they know which way is up.

They’ve managed to get us through the upside down kitchen, up an inverted ventilator shaft, along the flooded passageway to the engine room, all the way to the propeller shaft tunnel. Now we’re just banging a pipe against the hull, waiting for somebody to use a torch to cut a hole so Nevada can win the election for Uncle Joe Biden.

It looks like we’re going to survive. Yeah, we’ll have to listen to somebody sing a cloying version of There’s got to be a morning after, but that’s a small price to pay.

It’s been an ugly trip. We’ve lost a LOT of people, most of whom died unnecessarily. We’ve witnessed a shameful amount of selfishness and arrogance and corrupt double-dealing along the way. But we’ve also seen some courage, some self-sacrifice, and a willingness to help others.

That’s the good news. Here’s the bad news.

The ship is still upside down. And on fire. And full of dead people. There’s a HELL of a lot of work to be done. We’ve got good people willing to do that work. But remember those greed-head corporate owners who sent the ship off without ballast? Those evil fuckers still own the shipping company.

long day

I’ll have to set an alarm tomorrow morning. It’s been a long, long times since I’ve set an alarm in the morning. Probably for 0500 hours, so I can wake up, check the perimeter with the cat, make coffee, get dressed, prepare food for the day, cosset the cat some, and get to the Lutheran church that’s my assigned polling station by 0600.

I’ll be there all day, setting up the polling station, checking in voters, registering new voters, handing out ballots. All day, until the polls close at 2100. Then maybe another hour breaking down the polling station.

I volunteered to be an election worker this year because of the pandemic. A lot of the usual election workers — mostly elderly women — opted not to work the polls out of a reasonable concern of contracting Covid-19. I live in Iowa, a state with a Republican governor who has faithfully followed the Trump path of Covid-denial. She has refused to issue a statewide mask mandate, she has insisted schools reopen in person, she has been inconsistent in her approach to closing/opening small businesses, and she has been accused of misusing US$21 million of federal pandemic relief funding to buy executive branch software. Despite the fact that Iowa has frequently ranked in the top ten states with the highest Covid positive testing rates (today the positivity rate is 13.4%), the governor has said, “We have to learn to live with it [Covid-19] and we have to do it in a safe and responsible manner.”

That casually negligent approach is reflected in the way we’ll handle the election. The state will provide election workers with masks, hand sanitizer, and alcohol wipes. Maybe gloves, maybe face shields. We’ll be given tape to make social distance markers for voters. That’s it for Covid precautions. There’ll be no plexiglass screens between election workers and voters. Voters will NOT be required to wear masks.

Happily, we’ve seen a LOT of early voting, which may alleviate the number of in-person voters tomorrow. Many (maybe most) early voters will have been Democrats; Trump has stressed that he wants his supporters to vote on Election Day. Those Republican voters will likely be the ones without masks.

The polls open at 0700 and remain open until 2100. Fourteen hours. Sixteen hours, including set-up and break-down. In a closed environment (probably with an old ventilation system). Face to face with strangers. Without a mask mandate.

Some election workers will almost certainly contract Covid-19.

I don’t expect any other trouble tomorrow. Although Iowa is a toss-up state, with an almost equal number of Biden and Trump supporters, we’re not likely to see the sort of aggressive voter intimidation and suppression tactics taking place in some states. We have our share of gun nuts, rabid right-wing conservatives, and wanna-be ‘freedom fighters’ but so far they haven’t been showing up at polling places armed with semi-automatic rifles.

That said, it’s a shameful comment on the current state of the nation that an election worker is grateful that armed self-appointed political gangs probably won’t be intruding on the electoral process. Four years ago, the very idea that something like that might happen was almost unimaginable; now we’re grateful that it’s not happening at our particular polling site.

After the election, I’ll be isolating myself for at least ten days. Today I’ll be going geocaching with my brother. Today I’ll be spending as much time outside as the weather will allow. Today I’ll have fun and not give much thought to the election. Because tomorrow will be a long day.

Tomorrow is going to be a long day. I’m not looking forward to it. I’d much prefer to be home, spending time with people I care about and a narcissistic cat. It’ll be a long day, but giving up sixteen hours is really a rather small contribution to the democratic process. A long day is a very, very small sacrifice. It’ll be a long day, but I think it’ll be worthwhile.

Tomorrow is going to be a long day for everybody, and we know more long days will follow it. It’s to be hoped there will be only another 70 or so long days until Comrade Trump is out of office. Otherwise, I despair for the future of the United States.