Between the action and the reaction falls the shadow. That’s a paraphrase of the T.S. Eliot poem, “The Hollow Men,” which is worth reading anytime but maybe especially during these …
Between the action and the reaction falls the shadow. That’s a paraphrase of the T.S. Eliot poem, “The Hollow Men,” which is worth reading anytime but maybe especially during these times. The poem spoke to me first as an adolescent consumed with dark thoughts and a desire to understand the mature world.
Eliot’s real words are this: “Between the idea and the reality, falls the shadow.” He goes on to repeat the theme with “motion” and “act,” “emotion” and “response,” “desire” and “spasm.” You get the drift.
The poem returned to me soon after voting on Sunday, October 25, the second day of early voting in New York. I felt a sense of relief at having cast the ballot I had been waiting four years to cast. Then the suspense amped up as the official Election Day—the day after this issue of the River Reporter went to print—was more than a week away. Between the vote and the result falls the shadow.
Four years ago, I canvassed in PA on the eve of the election. I wrote about that experience in a column titled “Chastity and destiny.” Those were the names of a mother and daughter living in coal country who I encouraged to cast their ballots for the first female Presidential candidate. I was likely unsuccessful.
This year, undeterred, I canvassed again with a young family from Jeffersonville. Five of us packed into their Tesla Model 3 to navigate the rural roads of Northeast PA on a rainy night just past sunset. This year canvassing was further complicated by the pandemic, but a pretty thorough screening by the Democratic campaign had approved us to canvass. A smartphone app provided us training on how to encourage voters to cast their ballots. We had literature to leave if our assigned voters were not at home. The app also mapped our route and showed us the names, genders and ages of our target voters. It’s not a job for the faint or shy, but at least we were not flying blind.
Our canvass family included two white women and three male people of color, one 4 years old and one 13. The youngest was excited to be asking people to vote for “his” candidate and more than a little impatient to get to the next address. His father drove and we navigated using the app and the very accurate Tesla GPS. Our first address didn’t have a driveway or even a house that we could see. But the next one opened the door to us after the 4-year-old rang the video doorbell. They answered our questions willingly and expressed strong support for our candidate.
The 13-year-old stayed in the car at that stop but was persuaded to join his mother at the next address and thereafter. As much as his parents wanted him to not be afraid, I was afraid for him. At our last stop, we were all hungry and tired. We entered the driveway of a house at the end of a potholed road in a small rural development. The solar panels in the yard encouraged me that these were at least environmentally friendly folk.
As the mother of our two boys moved toward the young man in the driveway who had come out to see who we were, our 13-year-old moved slowly behind her. Tall and slender, with his Afro under a hoodie, I felt his trepidation and also his bravery. His family wants him to be engaged with the world, politically and socially active. I do, too. But I want to acknowledge his fear and work to change the systems that perpetuate its climate.
By now, we may know the results of the election on November 3. Between the vote and the result falls the shadow.
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