SYDNEY — Once upon a time, in a land not far away, two former Cape Bretoners awoke to the aftermath of a presidential election that left a nation divided.
In New York City, Sydney Mines native Brian Burton found himself under the bright lights of Times Square on Saturday evening, jubilantly celebrating Joe Biden’s apparent victory with thousands of other like-minded individuals.
The next day, across the country in central Arizona, Bruce Evans, who was raised in North Sydney, took his rescue dog on a pensive walk under the high desert sun as he tried to come to terms with what was increasingly looking like the defeat of President Donald Trump.
Conversations with the two men support the growing consensus that last week’s elections have left the United States more divided on more levels than at perhaps any time in its 244-year history.
In the Big Apple, the 39-year-old Burton said he was so overjoyed with the pronouncement of the Biden victory that he and partner Sarah Fraser, a native of Pictou County, headed out to soak up the excitement of Greenwich Village and Times Square.
“I felt a huge sense of relief and I believe that was the general feeling out there — people seem to be relieved that it’s finally over and that Trump was not re-elected,” said Burton, who with Fraser, operates a dog training and behaviour business in Manhattan.
“It’s been exhausting. All the rhetoric has been exhausting. And having a president who doesn’t believe that racism exists also doesn’t help. It’s been hard — we all have to learn to respect our fellow citizens. I mean almost half the country voted the other way. We all have to live together and get through this together.
"I am hoping Joe Biden is the right person to unite everything and that things will get better.”
But with more than 70-million Americans voting for Trump, it’s obvious that not everybody shares Burton’s opinion.
Bruce Evans is a generation older and his Prescott Valley home, located north of Phoenix at an elevation of 1,550-metres, is some 4,000 km west of Burton’s Spanish Harlem neighbourhood apartment.
Evans, who is semi-retired from the financial sector, has spent about half his life in Canada and half in the United States after being transferred from Calgary to New York in the mid-1980s. And even though he only recently moved from Los Angeles to Arizona, he said it’s a place where he feels comfortable, especially in the political sense.
“It’s a very conservative enclave with lots of pickup trucks with American flags on the back sort of thing which is fine by me,” he chuckled when asked to describe his community.
“Sometimes I go out wearing my COVID face mask that says Trump 2020 on it and if I was still in west Los Angeles, well, I would be getting thumbs in the eye, but here I am getting the thumbs up.
“But if Biden is president I think we are in for a bumpy ride — but it isn’t over for sure, if I was Joe Biden I wouldn’t be popping any champagne corks just yet.”
While the two men, unbeknownst to each other, are political opposites, they do agree that the United States is a nation divided. However, they disagree as to the likelihood of breaching the chasm of separation that runs deep across the world’s most powerful country.
Burton, who lives in a community with a rich and wide diversity of ethnicities, lifestyles and cultures, is hopeful the nation can heal. But, his optimistic words are delivered in a wrapping of caution.
“This divide isn’t going to go away, so unless we figure out a way to start working with each other we are just going to keep going through this cycle again and again and again, and who knows where that is going to lead in the future,” said Burton.
“It runs through everything and what’s concerning is the divisiveness that we’ve seen over the past four years, and especially in the past six months, with big issues such as Black Lives Matter and the pandemic. It has been scary. In the back of your head there are thoughts about civil unrest and worse.”
Evans, a self-declared conservative Republican, doesn’t even feign optimism when it comes to healing the division within his adopted country.
“I think we are in for a bumpy ride — the divisiveness is so damn deep that unless we have a very charismatic leader on one side or the other, and I don’t see one on the horizon right now, I think that our goose is a bit cooked,” he said, adding he believes too many people have neglected to acknowledge Trump’s presidential achievements.
“The list of Trump’s accomplishments covers everything from economics to programs and laws to help minority communities and people should just look at the facts, and get beyond the ‘orange man bad’ image and some of the more toxic elements of his personality.”
The U.S. presidential election may or may not be completely over. In the interim both Burton and Evans are looking forward to taking a break from the political overload they and millions of others have endured for the better part of the past four years.
Burton is eager to travel and visit family he hasn’t seen since before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, while Evans plans to work less and golf more. Much more.
Posted by Brian Burton on Saturday, November 7, 2020