The Wednesday after Election Day

Will Tuesday/Wednesday ever come? I pretty much know how I’m going to feel when the final tally is announced. But I have been thinking about what I’m going to do in my classes on Wednesday.

This afternoon, Mimi Chapman, the chair of the faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill, where I teach, sent out an email:

“As faculty who are called to teach, please spend some time in reflection considering how you might best take care of yourself and take care of your students, some of whom may be elated, others devastated or confused by the election outcome. Take some time to remember yourself in your late teens and early 20’s. The passion, the outrage, the fear, and the courage that make it such a joy to work with young people also create challenges when we have no choice but to be patient in waiting for ballots to be counted, votes to be certified or, in some situations, for courts to make rulings.

“We will need patience, courage, and fortitude in equal measure in the coming weeks. Be gentle with yourselves, and gentle with your students and colleagues even as you make the choices you must make to be true to your beliefs and values.”

I remember well how I felt in 1972, the first time I could vote for the presidency. My candidate, McGovern, got squashed by Nixon. We knew Nixon was corrupt, but we didn’t know how bad he was. I was disappointed, but I had faith in democracy and, believe it or not, in representative government. (Jesse Helms was my senator, but so was Sam Ervin.) And, two years later, Nixon was impeached and resigned.

Things are different now. My faith in representative government has eroded. Trump has undercut voting and democracy. He’s moved against civil rights and women’s rights. He’s removed environmental protections. These are all issues important to my students, and I know that however the election turns out, they will be preoccupied.

Normally, on Wednesday, I would lecture on how to edit a story. Or maybe I’ll lecture on the similarities that the structure of writing has with other art forms: music, poetry and dance. I never talk politics — that’s not what they come for — and I don’t intend to talk politics on Wednesday. But I’ll let them talk, I’ll listen, and we’ll see where it goes.