I have a crazy high kill count for someone who is not a professional.
In 2015, I was getting ready to go to the gym. I reached into the closet in the entry, picked up my sneakers, and recoiled in confusion as I felt something foreign brush against my wedding ring finger. Was it a burr caught in my shoe? A piece of glass? All these questions occurred in the split second before my hand exploded in pain. The sensation seared through me as though someone had slammed my hand in a car door repeatedly. That’s when it dawned on me that there was a scorpion in my left sneaker. I saw its tail retreat deeper into the shoe as it tried to hide from my imminent retaliation.
It’s been many years since then, and I’ve learned a lot about scorpions. I learned how to hunt them and kill them either in the freezer or the sun. I learned that flushing them doesn’t necessarily kill them as they can survive in water up to 40 days. I even donated some to a BYU researcher. I also learned that my house had a LOT of scorpions. They carry their babies on their backs, often as many as 30 scorplings to one adult. My largest kill night was 90 scorpions thanks to a prolific mating season. That was this summer.
We moved a month ago, and I discovered that our new house also has a lot of scorpions. They mostly live in the cinderblock walls and rocks that surround Arizona yards and neighborhoods. At first, I continued to cull the scorpion population, figuring I was keeping my family safe. It’s always been ostensibly about “protecting my family,” but it’s also been about revenge and about segregation, about not wanting to share “my” space with these little a-holes.
I have friends who are vegan for ethical reasons, and some of them have encouraged me to relocate the scorpions rather than kill them. I used to joke that I was happy to toss them into the neighbor’s yard. Driving a jar of scorpions into a desert preserve felt a little weird to me, and can you imagine if I accidentally spilled them in my car? But the ethical question of scorpiocide has weighed on me.
I started to notice that these creatures behaved a lot like my cats when I chased them with my glow-in-the-dark tweezers (for clarity, I don’t chase the cats with tweezers, but they are often easily startled). They were skittish. They didn’t want to be caught. They weren’t stupid. They knew the jig was up. In my jar of death, they would swarm over each other in rage, looking for an escape. The last time I caught one, a few weeks ago, it was still alive by noon the next day, so I took pity, and finally just tossed it over the wall into the runoff next to our property. It immediately perked up and ran into my wall again, relieved to be out of the murderous sun.
In addition to more scorpions, my new neighborhood also has a lot more Trump supporters. Even yesterday, we were surprised to see a very long “Trump train” of trucks and cars roll past as we drove home. This election season has been fraught as I’ve seen them in every store, every restaurant, and while entering the home and garden show, heard one of them shout-whispering through his mandatory mask to the entering crowd “Covid isn’t ree-al!” It’s been hard to get the gumption to go to a new ward in an area so full of people whose values and perception of reality I reject. Seeing Utah’s election results was both an embarrassment and completely dispiriting, particularly in the wake of Mike Lee’s foolish statements, Covid-spreading, and comparing Trump to Captain Moroni.
Before the election, being surrounded by all these Trump supporters reminded me of something someone said in an interview I listened to. This person was a white Christian nationalist. The interviewer asked if she would rather all votes be counted, even if that meant she lost, or was it more important to hold onto power, even through anti-democratic means. She paused in reflection and said in crushing honesty, “I’m not sure. I guess that’s something I will have to think about.”
I thought about that often throughout this election, and I had decided that if the majority of Americans (well, electoral votes anyway, since we all knew the actual majority of Americans would vote Biden Harris) voted for a second Trump term, I would accept that rather than wishing we could subvert democracy. The will of the people is the basis for our government, even when those people are fearful, foolish or engorged on soothing propaganda, as people often are. For me, it wasn’t really a question. The votes are the votes. If you can’t persuade voters, you don’t win. That’s what I’ve believed my whole life.
After the election as the red mirage was turning blue in battleground states, including ours, we stopped at Red Robin for an early plexiglass-separated dinner. When I walked through the restaurant, I noticed that the mood was similar to the mood in my scorpion cup. There was hostility, fear, and desperation.
A couple sitting near us was talking about their anger over the election and another woman sitting across from them jumped into their conversation, upset that Arizona might vote blue, not believing that it was even possible that such a thing could happen. She said she didn’t like to talk about these things in front of her son, who looked to be about ten years old, and then she continued to tersely talk about them to these strangers. When I got up to go to the restroom, I passed a man in a MAGA hat staring defiantly at the TV screen. I saw another couple sitting side by side in a booth  watching the results come in with a nervous tension in their faces, seeing their candidate’s slipping lead. I was part of the silent barely-majority that quietly walked through their midst without standing up and shouting “I voted Biden Harris! You aren’t the only people in this state!” I didn’t have a flag on my car or a bumper sticker or a tee shirt or a hat. I didn’t look any different on the outside.
I have friends for whom their fellow Church members’ support of Trump has been the straw that broke the camel’s back. They won’t be going back. I feel similarly most days. Seeing the Utah results is a terrible reflection on the Church, although obviously the membership is not a monolith (whether the Church wants it to be or not). It’s hard to square that with the scripture “By their fruits, ye shall know them.” Mostly, I know that if my first impression of them is based on their anger over losing this election, I will never be able to get past that to a place where I see them as friends and fellow disciples. And Mormons in general did turn out for Trump yet again. He garnered 71% of the Mormon vote, according to this poll, which was only smaller than his support among Evangelicals of 81% (my new area of Phoenix is right by the largest Evangelical campus in the state).
For many of the president’s followers, the past four years have been one long, quasi-religious exercise in suspending disbelief. To adhere to the Church of Trumpism was to reject anything that might challenge its orthodoxies. The news was fake. The polls were fake. The investigations and scandals and fact-checks were fake. It only stood to reason that if Trump lost his bid for reelection, the defeat would be fake as well. . .
The question of whether Trumpism has a long-term future in the GOP will be debated at length in the coming months. What’s certain is that it won’t be vanquished by Trump’s impending defeat alone—if anything, his most devoted supporters may be further radicalized.https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/11/trump-bannon-election-party/617020/
There’s been a call to give Trump supporters the space they need to grieve as we all needed to grieve in 2016. A difference that’s been pointed out is that they are grieving losing their ability to discriminate against marginalized groups without being called out; they are upset about loss of privilege. Nevertheless, I am pretty sure most of them don’t see it that way. They would describe their views very differently. That probably matters, whether it’s accurate or not.
But it’s also clear that many, Trump included, are still in the denial phase of grieving. When Mitch McConnell and other Republicans say we are in a “republic” they mean that we have a system based on elite, minority rule, in their minds, the GOP. That’s kind of how the electoral college works. But we are also built on democratic principles. We believe that the votes of the people count, albeit with some weird caveats to just how they are counted. The word “republic” is definitely a dog whistle for upholding conservative power rather than pure democracy which involves winning in the marketplace of ideas and ensuring that everyone has a say in our government.
I was listening to a podcast with Ezra Klein talking about Biden’s growth over the years. One of his strengths that they discussed is that he really listens to others and assumes that nobody else is an idiot. He goes out to meet them where they are, literally waiting for them in the Senate gym or restaurants they frequent. He befriends those who see things differently and tries to ensure they can also get what they want in a deal.
At the 2013 White House Correspondents Association Dinner, Obama outlined the state of affairs with McConnell: “Some folks still don’t think I spend enough time with Congress. ‘Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?’ they ask. Really? Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?”https://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2016-06-22/the-obama-mcconnell-relationship-demonstrates-washington-gridlock
By contrast, Biden was willing to befriend McConnell (?).  He’s made friends with all kinds of people he fundamentally disagrees with. He believes in relationships, not just in ideological purity. He has repeatedly said he’ll be a President for all Americans, whether they voted for him or not, that this is the job.
It’s politics, so I understand skepticism about his sincerity. We’ve had four years of a President saying the opposite of that, withholding aid from “blue states” and whipping up fear of liberals, creating two Americas. He didn’t create that from nothing, but he made the rift wider than it was by saying the quiet part out loud and spreading disinformation and conspiracy theories.
I deliberately didn’t look at the Next Door app in the days during the election count, but when I finally did, I was somewhat pleasantly surprised. Before the election, nearly all the posts were about Trump supporters getting together, buying merch, putting up signs, being mad at people with Biden Harris signs, and a lot of bickering about marijuana legislation. After the election, I mostly saw people saying “Hey, it’s time to come together. Let’s move on. We are neighbors after all. We have more in common with each other than with any rich politician.” It was better than I expected. It was a totally different vibe than in that very red Red Robin. Maybe these folks were Biden Harris supporters, maybe they were Trump supporters who were over it. Maybe they’ve reversed course now and are storming the capital demanding a recount.
I don’t know if we can really heal as a nation from the last four years. There’s a lot of work to do. I have less hope that we can heal as a Church given the overwhelmingly open support of Trump in our congregations, and the tendency to vilify those who vote Democrat that has only gotten more common in the last four years. Even with friends with established relationships, it wasn’t easy to hear some of their justifications and beliefs that were so out of step with my own, to realize just how little we had in common after all. It was even harder to get past some of the conspiracy theorist beliefs being espoused openly. If they are gullible enough to believe that, what does it say about our Church’s narratives? Trying to build a relationship in a Trump-heavy place where we don’t know anyone feels futile and unappealing. I’m not sure it’s worth it. Pres. Oaks expressed that members should abide by election results, even if they don’t like them. While obviously I agree and was prepared to do so, the fact that so many Church members don’t like the result, and the degree to which some of them don’t like it, is still a problem for me. A big one.
- What has post-election felt like in your area? In your ward?
- Do you think we can get past these political divides and come together? How long do you think it will take for more unity as Americans? What will it take to get there?
- What does this election, combined with the pandemic, bode for the Church? Has it had any effect on your view of the Church?
 Like vampires, scorpions can’t survive in direct sunlight.
 Don’t they know they lost? No, they don’t.
 Although in fairness, both Trump and Captain Moroni do seem like poster boys for toxic masculinity.
 Always seriously weird to me. Just sit across the table from each other like normal people.
 I’m actually enjoying the lawsuit spectacle which I don’t expect to bear fruit for conservatives, but it only drags out this non-healing period, and further erodes my respect for those who believe some of the crazy, easily-debunked claims Trump is making.
 Which sounds a lot like befriending Emperor Palpatine to me.