Early, in-person voting started on Saturday morning (Oct. 24). And I will tell you, the response warmed my heart. Hundreds, yes, hundreds of people lined up outside the Putnam County Board of Elections office in Carmel. Many arrived early in the morning, well before the doors would open. The line snaked around the bowling alley next door. Parking lots were jammed. From all over the county they came, to cast a ballot in this critical election. Many, many voters told us simply, “It’s the most important election of our lifetimes.”
And I’m old, so that’s a good number of elections.
It appears that this incredible level of civic activity was present across the state and our entire region on Saturday and Sunday. Hundreds turned out at the Fishkill Town Hall, too, a voting site for Dutchess County. I will vote there this week. In New York City, supposedly a ghost town, an old newspaper colleague reports that lines went around the block at Madison Square Garden. In a ghost town!
Again, there was a time in our nation when more civic activity like voting was universally regarded as a positive thing. More voting, not less. More involvement, not less. We need to adopt that approach, again. Voting is how we decide things. Not everything, but certainly, the course of the next 4 years. More participation is a good thing, not bad. And then there were the
COVID-19 updates, and here the news is very grim indeed: The nationwide death toll is rapidly closing on a quarter million people. As I write this on Saturday, it was 223,948 in the U.S. Total U.S. cases have hit an astounding 8.5 million. Through Friday, 10,353 more people have died in this nation in the past two weeks alone of COVID-19. I wonder, if we asked their wives, sons and daughters, husbands, would these shellshocked survivors say it’s all a hoax? Or, just like the flu? And we have hit a new one-day total for new cases, 85,084 on Friday alone. One day. I have an ominous sense of impending doom about that one-day total.
A story: One of the most common causes of death involving a tractor is overturning. Some tractors are fairly high, to safely pass over the “row crops” below. And these tractors, like I drove on our farm in Minnesota growing up, are often pulling extremely heavy loads. Grain, silage, and so on. Sometimes, as for silage, the wagons are big and unwieldy (silage is the grain and stalk, usually corn, all chopped up, usually while still green). Anyway, if you were going into a turn, like from the gravel road past our farm into the farmyard to the elevator or silo, you needed to slow down a good bit. A lot. “More than you think you need to,” my father would say.
On COVID, as a nation, we’re not even trying to slow down. In 2020 terms, we are careening into the winter with COVID cases at extremely high levels. If we indeed go into winter with totals like this, when people are by definition spending more time inside, we are not just asking for trouble, we’re buying extra amounts of trouble. We will get exponential growth of the disease. One day totals will keep rising. More people will become sick, and even with today’s more advanced understanding of this terrible disease, more people will die.
I am not optimistic at all. In a country like the United States, we ought to be able to develop a common understanding of preventive steps to get this under control. Ten thousand people still dying every two weeks, and it’s getting worse. I’m at a loss. Turns,
Part II: In his later years, my father had prostate cancer. It metastasized, eventually hitting everything, including his bones, and it was very painful. Every few months, I would fly from here to Minnesota. Sometimes he had a doctor’s appointment during that time, and I would drive us to Sioux Falls, the South Dakota city that is medical provider to a fair chunk of South Dakota, southwestern Minnesota and northwest Iowa. We were headed back home after one such trip and needed gasoline, and there was a particular station they usually stopped at. It came up quickly, and I passed by the first entrance. My father started shouting from the back seat. “You missed the turn!”
He was quite discontented. I said, “I didn’t miss the turn. We’re going to take the second entrance, which is right here.” And we turned in. He was not mollified. “I’ll tell you why you missed the turn. You were going too damn fast, that’s why you missed the turn!” All from the back seat, at pretty good volume.
I probably was going at a pretty good clip. But we made it. Wish I could be as optimistic about the nation and COVID.
Until next week.
Douglas Cunningham is editor of the Putnam County Courier and the Putnam County News and Recorder, in Cold Spring. Reach him at 845-265-2468, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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