Deja Vu All Over Again
Do you remember when the party in power intimidated voters, “lost” opposition votes, and stuffed ballot boxes? They lost in a landslide to their opponents, but they refused to let the winners take office. The nation came close to violence that night and in the following days. Only a massive appeal from civil and religious leaders convinced the defeated party to vacate their offices and end the standoff. But that was after five days of a tense, 24-hour curfew.
You don’t remember? Of course not. Because you weren’t in Sri Lanka in 1994, when Chandrika won in a landslide after a courageous campaign that defied death threats and intimidation. (It’s a place where death threats should be taken seriously: her father and her husband had both been assassinated.)
I remember the collective sigh of relief when someone turned on the TV and we watched Chandrika being sworn in as Prime Minister. And I remember thinking, ‘Thank God this could never happen in my home country.”
Or could it? USPS (run by an appointee of the President who has been slashing postal services) has lost 300,000 mail-in ballots– and has defied a court order to find them. Democrats are far more likely to mail their ballots than Republicans. So it’s likely that over a quarter of a million votes for Biden have already been declared missing.
Not only that, but the mail-in preference of Democrats will cause their votes to be counted last, potentially creating the illusion that Trump won even though all the votes haven’t been counted.
And Trump has signaled that he may not accept the election results.
All of which adds up, for me, to deja vu.
I sat with a political activist who supported Chandrika shortly before the election. He told me how, just the night before, someone had come to his home after hearing a rumor that Chandrika had been shot. The activist confirmed that the rumor was false. And he asked the man what he would have done if it had been true. The man replied that he and his friends had planned to kill every opposition supporter in town.
We’ve already seen the violence our nation is capable of in recent protests and counter-protests. I pray that this election goes smoothly. Because what it feels like tonight is that the world is holding its breath. I imagine this is what it felt like in 1936. As songwriter Robyn Hitchcock summarized,
Chamberlain came crawling from Munich
With one piece of paper. He waved at the camera.
Peace in our time, Oh thank you Herr Hitler.
Tell that to the Polish. Tell that to the Jews!
May God be with us this night, and in the days to come.