America is an idea that is made up by many voices. The only way to limit the American ideal of democracy and a more perfect union is to discourage or deny even one of these voices. Seldom in America’s history has there been more topics or reasons to raise our voices, listen intently and engage in purposeful conversations. We find ourselves living in times of a global pandemic, whirling natural disasters, national political turmoil, racial awakening and economic uncertainty. Voices are cascading, clashing, clamoring and crescendoing everywhere.
Here, in Sonoma County, we have heard crowds of voices from the streets as young people and others march for social justice and racial equality. We attend daily Zoom updates with local government leaders warning us about wildfire dangers, delayed school openings, broken budget sessions and the daily COVID-19 pandemic toll. In the noisy background, there are national political party conventions and high-pitched partisan outbursts. Our ears need a break. We all could use some soothing songs but social distancing is keeping our choirs apart.
Yet, there are many voices of America to which we must stay awake.
“Times of great uncertainty are also times of great possibilities. This is a time to dream greatly, to love boldly, to work smart and work hard,” writes poet and former Sebastopol mayor Larry Robinson in a letter to the editor.
“Just as fire destroys, it also creates. As a symbol of change and renewal, it removes the old and makes way for new beginnings,” reflected Sweetwater Springs Road resident Martha Borst upon returning home to find her property still safe and standing.
But not everyone shared the same fortunes. Judi Vollmer was a victim of the Hennessey Fire and lost her trailer home last week, just days after learning here 92-year-old father had tested positive with the coronavirus. “2020 can go to hell,” she told a news reporter. “This has been the worst year of my life.”
Our wildfires continue to smolder and smoke as we wait out the remainder of the northern California wildfire season and begin to recover, stay on alert and must be prepared to be tested again. All this while our national politics also smolder and seethe.
"The vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democracy,” said Civil Rights hero John Lewis, who died last month. Lewis said many times that the greatest of all voices in a democracy is the vote. On one of his final days alive, Lewis visited the newly christened Black Lives Matter plaza in Washington, D.C. during days when angry protests were breaking out in Minneapolis, Portland, Kenosha and elsewhere. It was enough to cancel all professional sporting events in the country as players unified in protest.
“We keep loving this country and this country doesn’t love us back,” said Black NBA coach Doc Rivers. It was four years ago when 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee to protest against systemic racism and social injustice. Once all alone, Kaepernick has now been joined by entire teams, leagues and owners.
“Does anyone believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is re-elected?” asked former vice president Joe Biden who is trying to deny Trump a second presidential term. “We’re facing multiple crises — crises that, under Donald Trump, have kept multiplying.”
Listen to what one of President’s Trump’s closest advisers believes: “The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better news for President Trump and the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order,” Kellyanne Conway told Fox News.
By Nov. 3 the wildfires should be doused and the coronavirus better controlled. And 130 million voices will be heard at the ballot box. Vote for the return of singing. Vote for peace.