It’s been a hard few weeks.
I have been thinking about the time around Donald Trump’s election. On left-leaning Vashon, many people were despondent in the days that followed, and at The Beachcomber, we wanted to say something wise and comforting and hopeful. We turned to islander Elizabeth Fitterer, who — in a matter of just a few hours, it seemed — whipped up one of the most beautiful pieces of writing that we have ever run in the paper. Last week in between alternately trying to follow the news from Washington, D.C. and trying not to follow the news from Washington, D.C., I read her piece again. I believe her words are worth repeating as we move forward from the events of recent weeks to Election Day.
“I Iike to think of our democracy as a beautiful, shining ship,” Fitterer wrote, nearly two years ago. “I’ve been talking to her lately, like she’s a ship in rough waters, or like she’s a plane being put through a stress test in a wind tunnel, her wings being curved to unbelievable angles. Bend, beautiful bird, I say to her. Bend, but please don’t break.”
She reminded us that democracy brought this country through challenging times before, including the Civil War, when sometimes brother fought against brother. She reminded us that regardless of our own personal preferences or goals, our system of governance is worthy of our respect, our allegiance, and even our love.
“Its willingness to bend to meet the will of the people is astonishing,” she wrote.
And she shared a lesson from her father, who had described his experience working on ships as a young man.
“Whenever you had a moment that found you standing motionless, you picked up a rag and got to work. If the spot you were cleaning was already clean, you cleaned it some more. You didn’t wait to be told to do this. You took care of your ship because it held you, it carried you through. It flexed with the forces of the waves and kept you afloat,” she wrote, sharing his words.
After the election, many people did, in fact, get out their cleaning cloths and got to work. There are signs of some of that work in this issue of the paper. Randy Smith spells out Audubon’s support of Initiative 1631, which would impose fees on large polluters. The political forum set for Oct. 22 is thanks to island organizers and young journalism students. (See page 4 for details.) Beyond these pages, there are signs coast to coast of people and their cleaning cloths. A record number of women are running for office this year. On National Voter Registration Day (Sept. 25), some 800,000 people registered to vote, a record that far surpassed the 300,000 goal for the day.
Here in King County, we will receive our ballots next week, and we have until Nov. 6 to return them. It is vitally important that we do so.
The closing lines from Fitterer’s op-ed could speak to voting as well: “Let’s never assume for a second that it’s somebody else’s job, somewhere, to take care of this beautiful ship we call home.”