Summer heat has arrived here in southern Arizona. The mercury is now hitting triple digits every afternoon. This is typical for summer, but the low desert climate does bring its challenges. My vegetable garden is populated with non-native plants (everything from tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers to basil, squashes, and okra). Some of these plants actually go dormant when the temperature exceeds 100°F. The pollen in nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants) can become unviable when temperatures exceed the century mark. The plants don’t die, but they do stop growing and flourishing. They stall and hunker down under the assault of so much heat.
As I ponder the American electoral landscape, I see another kind of heat. Those political leaders who didn’t like the results of the latest round of voting are doing their best to make voting more difficult under the guise of “fixing” voting issues that enabled a record number of Americans to vote this past November. That political heat is having a stalling and wilting effect on our democracy. I am praying we will hunker down and do our best in each state to keep the structures alive under this assault and work through the courts to counter these attacks.
Over the years, I’ve reflected on my garden as a metaphor for many elements of both our individual and collective life. Today, I’m pondering the importance of still caring for the plants in our social garden, even as they are assaulted by the heat of voter suppression and many states face the further pressure of redistricting in the wake of the 2020 census. It will not be an easy time for America, given how divided and contentious we are already acting toward each other.
In order to have any hope for long-term fruitfulness, we need to keep watering, feeding, and loving the plants in our gardens. That means supporting those voices that speak for all Americans, not just those who have power or scream the loudest. The voice of every American deserves to be heard, and every vote counted. We should be celebrating the desire for everyone to vote, not suppressing it with the heat of our fear and hatred.
How can you tend the garden that is America—or at least those in your neighborhood or voting district? How are you supporting those who are fighting for the rights of every voter?