photo credit: my younger daughter

This morning I couldn’t sleep. When I woke around two (or was it three? the time change has me kerfuffled) to go to the bathroom, my mind started racing. I forced myself to stay in bed for a bit, but eventually I gave up, went downstairs, and fixed myself a pot of coffee.

I’m worried about the election, friends. The elections, ha! This process I’ve hardly ever even thought about (besides, you know, who I’m gonna vote for) is actually keeping me up at night. The situation in our country right now is truly alarming. Basic principles — every vote counts, majority rule, the loser concedes, and there is a peaceful transfer of power — are being threatened. It feels surreal, but make no mistake: it’s real.

About a month ago, I took an unarmed accompaniment training. Over the last year, I’ve repeatedly bumped up against the violent underbelly of our culture, and the people who fuel it — the 2A meeting, the youth-led BLM rally, books, the learning tour of Charlottesville, the shouty neighbor, Walk the Walk — and, what with all the hate speech and anti-democratic rhetoric coming from the White House, I thought it might behoove me to ground myself with a few techniques. 

Then I took another training from Choose Democracy led by George Lakey and, right around that time, I met with a few other local people who had also taken the trainings and wanted to talk about ideas and discuss possible next steps. Someone brought a recently-released manual called Hold the Line to the meeting and, after some discussion, we decided to adopt it as our guide. 

And that’s how our local Hold the Line team was born. 

Currently, over a hundred people in our area have signed on. So far, we’ve focused on establishing communication channels with our local media, legislators, district attorney, sheriff, and election officials. We’ve also gathered outside a congressman’s office to ask him to denounce the president’s dangerous rhetoric that undermines the integrity of the elections, and to counter any voter intimidation or manipulation of election results. And we are hosting daily noon vigils at the courthouse from now until whenever. It could be a while.

What are the lines we are holding, you ask? Well, let me tell you!

Line 1: All votes must be counted, without interference or intimidation.
Line 2: Incidents of fraud, voter suppression, or other election irregularities must be investigated impartially and remedied as appropriate.
Line 3: The true election results must be respected, regardless of who wins. Preserving democracy is more important than any individual candidate.

It’s basic stuff. But if these lines are crossed, then we’re in coup territory. 

HTL’s premise is simple: elections must be free, fair, respected (regardless of who wins), and safe. The strategies are also simple: as citizens, we have power and we will use it nonviolently — this is hugely important — to make sure that these lines are not crossed and to challenge them when they are. 

Last night, one of my son’s housemates sent me a TED talk. I watched it this morning, while the wind thumped against the house and the rest of the family slept. If you’re just now becoming aware of the danger our country is in, this is the place to start.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few months. Maybe nothing? I sure hope so, but I don’t believe it, not for a second. We’re humans, like every other human in the world. Our country is not exceptional (let’s kiss this self-destructive myth goodbye), and democracy is fragile. These next few weeks and months are critical. Voting is not enough. As Van Jones says, prepare to get active, and prepare to get loud.

Let’s go. 



More Information

Hold the Line Basics

*If you’re local, sign up to be a part of the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County HTL chapter here. We meet Monday nights at 7:30 by zoom.

*Hold the Line National is also hosting weekly assemblies on Sunday nights at 6:00. Sign up here.

*The HTL Handbook: read it!

Other Useful Links, lifted from HTL and other places

The Street Medic Handbook: zero in on page 9 and 10 for a RIVAL activity to prepare for protests and actions. (I’d like to take a virtual training, too.)


How to Talk about a Contested Election.

Online Handbook on Nonviolence and De-escalation Guidelines

A few things I learned from the Lakey training regarding how to handle violence: 

1) minimize the likelihood of violence through building connections with power holders and thoughtful, strategic planning 

2) meet violence with de-escalation: sloooow things down and, when in doubt, sit

3) if violence happens, expose it, contrasting it to the nonviolent protestors.

Backfire Basics: 5 nonviolent tactics to make violence backfire.

Protect the Results: sign up for actions on November 4 and November 7.

Each voice matters!


And now the family’s waking up. Gotta go… xo!


This same time, years previous: old-fashioned apple roll-ups, cinnamon pretzels, 2015 garden stats and notes, cheesy broccoli potato soup, sweet and sour lentils.


  • Karen M

    This is the preemise on which I vote(d).. Which canidate will guard our right to religious freedom. In this election it was very clear. I'm stunned that it doesn't get mentioned in your post/comments.

  • Karin

    I agree these are scary times. I never thought the United States democracy could be threatened like this. I see that was naive to think we were immune but I still can't believe what is going on here…I hope we can get back on track and stop this terrible divisiveness. It's one thing to support different candidates but the violence and threats we are seeing is terrifying.

  • kay saylor

    I was pleased when I went to the polls this morning and found that although there was a long line, everyone was quiet and respectful. We all need to remember that what we see on the news is the attention grabbing incidents, not the millions of people who want to simply exercise their voices. That said, I do live in a privileged area and not a target for voter suppression. I for one am encouraged by the overwhelming numbers voting during this insane time. Go Democracy!!!!!

  • Chepkirui

    It is work such as this that gives me hope. So many of us, across this country, and across the world, are pouring our love and energy towards hope, justice, and democracy. Thank you, Jennifer.

  • Jenny

    I think if Trump wins there will be riots in the cities & if Biden wins there will be runs on the stores. People have gone crazy for sure either way which means hard times for some if not most.

    But I'm honestly not losing sleep over it. I voted. I do believe my vote counts & that we're as fair as we can be even with human error (which is impossible to prevent).

    We are waiting to make any big purchases or repairs though. That's really the only reason we're holding our breath. If Biden wins we think the economy will fall so we'll try to save more. If Trump wins we think the economy will keep growing as it has been so we'll move ahead with our plans. Maybe we're in a bubble where I live? I don't think so. We see lots of Trump flags & Trump trains. We see lots of Biden supporters & protesting. But we've seen no violence or hatred. Each side has freely shared their opinion then voted.

    But no society lasts forever if we look through history. I just think it would be so very sad if we destroyed ourselves because we were so afraid of each other.

  • Theresa Y

    Never thought I'd see days like this. Such hatred in this country of our. It's truly astonishing. Thought we were past this. Spicy times indeed. Let's hope cooler calmer heads prevail. Please be safe.

  • Wendy

    I live far, far away from the USA but even here I am holding my breath. Cannot believe how this could have happend, what has become of your country. So sad. I'll keep all my fingers crossed and I hope kindness, decency and respect will show up and follow your line.

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