The Result Heard Round the World

Scramble for it there, they poke away at it! Still it’s loose…THEY SCORE!!…IT’S OVER!!

Sure, that might have been an announcer on NBC calling a group victorious after a long, drawn-out competition, but not the one that occurred just about twenty-four hours ago as Pennsylvania’s final vote count became public (and more specifically, Mike “Doc” Emrick called the overtime goal scored by Adam Henrique (#14) of the New Jersey Devils to win Game 6 (3-2) and the series (4-2) in the Eastern Conference final in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 25th, 2012).

Over the past week, as the world waited for officials to finalize the vote count in each respective state, I received countless messages and phone calls from friends around the world either updating me on the status of the election back home or simply letting me know that they were thinking of me during this turbulent, nail-biting election cycle. While some states took longer than others, yes we’re all looking at you Nevada, I have never seen people from such diverse nationalities and backgrounds invest in the US election quite like this year. I’m certain that the current pandemic had something to do with it, with the fact that the past year has proved to be incredibly difficult for peoples across cultures and beyond country borders, or simply the curiosity (and for some, fear, and for still others, hope) of whether or not Donald Trump would win a second term as president of the United States. For me personally, searching “us elections” on Google became muscle memory this week as I continued to hit “refresh” on my browser to see if anything had changed in the past few hours or minutes, depending on whether I had just woken up or checked my Instagram feed, respectively.

As the news came in that former Vice President Joe Biden had secured the majority of votes in Pennsylvania, and therefore had surpassed the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the election, I stood in the kitchen with one of my flatmates, each of us preparing our own respective dinners. “Oh, I just got a news notification, Biden won”, she said as I was mixing my chicken wing sauce. With my hands fully covered in olive oil and a concoction of different spices, I couldn’t help but smile. So it’s official, I thought, they finally called it. “Good,” I said, “Finally.” From that moment on, a flood of reactions poured into my phone. A fellow Midwesterner living in Israel said that the result of the election was the best thing to happen this year. Another friend told me that she could hear cheers erupt around her in Manhattan, which she immediately associated with the final calling of Pennsylvania and therefore the election, on an unusually warm autumn day. And yet another friend from Barcelona contacted me saying that she had frequently thought of me since the onset of Election Day (dare I say the first day of “Election Day”?) on Tuesday, November 3rd, despite her remembering that I don’t particularly enjoy serving as a spokesperson for US politics to my non-American friends while living abroad. Nevertheless, on November 7th, I promise you, I didn’t mind.

But perhaps my favorite messages came a few days earlier on November 4th, when friends wanted to inform me that Biden was gaining ground in Michigan. As a graduate from the University of Michigan and lifelong Michigander, nothing sounded sweeter to me than hearing so many people from around the world contact me for the sole purpose to tell me that they wanted Michigan to officially “Go Blue.

Nearly three weeks after I sent my ballot from the Israel Post branch at Migdal Shalom in downtown Tel Aviv and minutes after I had received news that Biden had won the election, my good friend and former roommate in Jerusalem told me over the phone that she had thought of me when she had heard that Biden had officially won Michigan on Wednesday and that maybe I actually had played some part in it. Tearfully, which I attribute to both the emotional week in the face of waiting for the election results as well as the fumes from the hot chili spice in my chicken wing sauce, I told her that when I too saw Michigan turn blue, “I felt like I did something”.

So thank you to Aviv Lis, an oleh chadash who grew up on the same street in Farmington Hills, Michigan (let’s give it up for Middlebelt), graduated from both high school and college the same respective years, and moved to Israel the same month as me, but who I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing until I moved to Tel Aviv this past summer. Aviv served as my point person on how to properly send in my ballot back to Michigan through the Israeli post, assuring me that yes it will get there; I might just have to pay 100 shekels for that peace of mind.

Even though this past week didn’t feature a major sports game that kept the world at the edge of its seat, but as someone who lives for watching her hockey and American football games, I can tell you that, in a way, this was what it feels like: the hoping, the stressing, the constant checking of the “score”, the snacking, the performing of superstitious actions (if applicable), the arguing of who has the best chance to win and your reasoning behind it, the continuous watching of your network of choice, the discussing of which announcer you like best, the witnessing of the final result (whether that left you overjoyed or frustrated), and the contacting of friends to see “if they’ve heard”. Unlike professional sports matches, however, as we watched the events unfold, we had the opportunity to participate in this race. To everyone who voted, especially those who took the meticulous care to vote absentee both domestically and internationally as well as those who voted in person and had to wait in long lines due to the necessary precautions needed to limit the spread of COVID-19, we did something. Each of us played our part on the big stage. As the whole world tuned in, this was our game, America. And boy, was it a thrill to watch.

(A special thank you those who worked tirelessly in promoting campaigns, counting votes, ensuring the accuracy of election information circulating online across social media platforms, and everyone else who worked behind the scenes during this past election cycle in the face of the pandemic)

About the Author
Catherine Szkop is a first generation Polish American with Jewish roots from the US, specifically Michigan, currently living in Israel as a graduate student in Jewish Studies focusing on Medieval to modern Polish-Jewish history as well as Israeli sociology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She decided to move to Israel in order to connect with her newly discovered Jewish ancestry and connect with the people who come from many different backgrounds, but all live in this small, yet dynamic region.
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