For many years now, on Election Day my husband and I have hosted a party, inviting over friends of a similar political persuasion to watch the returns and either celebrate or commiserate, depending on the outcome. In 2012 we went down to defeat but did so in style with a Mitt Romney-themed party complete with our own original cocktail creation: the Mint Rumney. (I see others had the same idea, but with different ingredients. Our Mint Rumney called for mint, pineapple juice, rum, Midori, and cream.)
On that fateful night four years ago, as we waited for the results to come in, we muted the TV, pulled out our hymnals, and sang with our guests, fellow Christians who along with us know better than to place our trust in earthly rulers. But this year, for the first time in a very long time, we will not have an election party.
As voters who are deeply dissatisfied with both major-party candidates this election, there is little for us to feel hopeful or excited about. Trump or Clinton is going to win, and either way, when we wake up on November 9 we will still have grave concerns about where the country is headed. I mentally and emotionally checked out of this election several weeks ago, seeing little reason to continue adding stress to my days or to relationships with people I care about who have a different view. Why belabor things when we all know what we think? Que sera, sera.
So in lieu of an election party, I am now thinking about what to do the evening of November 8 to get my mind off the proceedings. If you, too, are looking for an alternative to sitting glued to your television screen watching returns that promise to be depressing no matter which way they go, here are a few possibilities to consider that will not only provide a distraction but actually benefit and enrich your life for the better.
1. Have Some Friends Over and Sing Together
Sadly, Americans don’t sing together anymore. Yet singing has historically been one of the most basic tools human beings have to build community and express their most deeply held hopes and fears. African-American slaves sang spirituals to help them endure their subjugation at the hands of their slaveholders. Churchgoers sing to give voice to their shared confession of faith. In many parts of the world, and even here in America, people still sing together at times of celebration and mourning.
What better way to ponder, on Election Day, the things that really matter in life, than to sing? Whether you sing hymns, patriotic songs, popular or folk songs, or all of the above, singing together is a great way to remind yourself that life is about so much more than politics. It’s about loving one another, sharing good times and bad, and upholding the things we cherish and want to pass on to our children.
If you aren’t musically inclined and don’t have a friend who can help lead the singing, pick up some CDs, break out the karaoke machine, or pull up some YouTube videos. You will be surprised at how good you feel after a shared time of singing with people you care about.
2. Read the Constitution
Throw in the Declaration of Independence, some Federalist papers, and Patrick Henry’s Speech to the Virginia Convention for good measure. Or if you’re feeling sociable, invite some friends over and tell them to bring their favorite literary passage, either fiction or non-fiction, that reflects the noblest of America’s values and aspirations, and take turns reading to one another.
For even more fun, dress up as the person whose work you have decided to share. After spending the evening bathed in the words of George Washington, James Madison, Phyllis Wheatley, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Alexis de Tocqueville, Frederick Douglass, Mark Twain, Robert Frost, and others, you will be reminded of what truly makes America great and inspired to continue clinging to it.
3. Make It Movie NIght
Curl up with some popcorn and a classic American-themed movie. For more serious or earnest fare, go with “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “Glory,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” or “12 Angry Men.”
If you’re in the mood to be inspired, choose “Apollo 13,” “The Right Stuff,” “Miracle,” “Rocky,” or “Independence Day. For a Western, there’s “High Noon” or “Stagecoach,” and for something on the lighter side, “My Fellow Americans,” “Dave,” or “Being There.” And if you feel like some revolutionary singing and dancing, “1776”!
4. Have a Game Night
Play American-themed games like Monopoly, Ticket to Ride, Hail to the Chief, Where in the USA Is Carmen Sandiego, or Trivial Pursuit: All-American. Or, if you’re feeling cynical and resigned to living in a banana republic, there’s always Junta.
5. Invite Your Neighbors Over for a Potluck
Tell them ahead of time that the goal is to forget the election, so talk of politics is off-limits. Ask everyone to bring an American-themed dish, and spend some quality time getting to know better the people who probably understand a lot more about the challenges of life in your community than all those folks in Washington DC.
6. Restore Your Soul
Head for a museum, a park, or a quiet country road and take a nice, long walk, preferably far, far away from the campaign signs, billboards, radio ads, and news reports.
7. Do Something Kind for Someone
Visit an elderly neighbor and drop off something sweet to eat. Take a meal to someone who’s sick. Rake your next-door neighbor’s leaves. I don’t care if he has that candidate’s sign in his yard. Rake them anyway.
8. Teach Your Kids American Classics
If you have children, spend some time teaching them things about their country that they may not be learning in school these days: the national anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Preamble to the Constitution. Read or watch some stories about important figures in America’s history: Christopher Columbus, John Smith and Pocahontas, Squanto and the Pilgrims, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Sacajawea and Lewis and Clark, Harriet Tubman, Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers. Here are a few resources to consider.
9. Read Your Bible
Any part of it will do, but here are a few passages to get you started: Exodus 20, 2 Chronicles 7, Matthew 22, John 19, Acts 5, Romans 8, Colossians 1, 1 Timothy 2, 1 Peter 2, and Psalms 25, 33, 46, 51, 71, 109, and 146.
Pray for the unborn, for children, and for the sick, disabled, and elderly. Pray that those in authority over us would carry out their duties with wisdom and humility. Pray that as Americans we would seek what is best not only for ourselves but for each other. Pray for the defeat of those who wish to harm us. Pray for peace.
The foregoing list, while written with Election Day in mind, is applicable to any day of the year. If your plan to ignore the returns fails and you succumb to temptation by turning on the tube, I encourage you to file these ideas away for future use. In that case, be prepared to activate Plan B: a well-stocked bar, Election Night drinking guide, jumbo box of tissue, and head-sized bucket of sand.