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Will voters today give America what it needs to survive?

After a year of pandemic, protest, racial strife and our democracy under attack, can this year's presidential election bring healing or provide the last nail in America's coffin?

With cameras and notepad, I head out on this cool Tuesday presidential election morning to cover voters making their choice for a report to The Floyd Press, repeating a routine I have followed more than a dozen times over the last five decades.

Sixteen years ago, I was on the West Coast shooting photos for a wire service. On the red-eye flight from Seattle, Washington, back to Washington, DC, I thought that would be my last campaign to cover as a newspaperman/photo journalist.

We had already purchased a home in Floyd County and would close on it in early December and complete our move from the condo that had been our home for 23 years in Arlington County in the National Capital Region.

Four years later, I was back in the middle of campaign coverage for the 2008 presidential campaign that gave America its first African-American president. Shortly after our move to Floyd, I returned to work, as a contract reporter/photographer for The Floyd Press that was my first full-time job while attending Floyd County High School in the early 1960s.

Eight-years after that, we saw America take a sharp right-turn to select a first-time candidate with heavy support from white supremacists and others on what we thought were the political fringe.

Sometime after the polls close tonight, we will see if America learned its lesson.

Here in Floyd County, still dominated by the Republican Party, Donald Trump will win the popular vote. The same for most of Southwestern Virginia, but the rural areas of this end of The Old Dominion do not control the voters in Northern Virginia, Tidewater or Richmond, where Joe Biden will most likely dominate and give the Commonwealth’s Electoral College votes to him.

Close to half the registered voters in Floyd County have already voted in early balloting and by mail. That turnout is a record for our part of the Blue Ridge. Will Trump’s winning percentage will be higher or smaller than the results in 2016?

It will also be interesting to see the cult-like following of Trump come up with an explanation on why, on why their prediction over and over again on social media, that the COVID-19 pandemic would magically disappear once the election is over didn’t occur.

They declared the pandemic a “hoax” by the Democrats as a move to defeat Trump. Too many others in our midst also bought into the ludicrous conspiracy theories promoted by QAnon and other rabbit-hole groups.

America may have a new president after this election, but the paranoia, rancor and hate that have been a hallmark of Washington’s leadership in the past four years will take more than one election to correct and heal.

Invoking a symbol of distress, a protester carried a U.S. flag upside down in Minneapolis. (Julio Cortez/Associated Press)

Too much anger remains. America is a divided nation, still dominated by racism and the lasting hate of a white majority whose numbers are fading in a nation dedicated by our Founding Fathers as a place for diversity and acceptance of differing beliefs.

Our 23 years in Washington gave us a close look at how our government does and too often does not govern or follow the Constitution. We watched the bipartisanship that existed between the two primary political parties vanish and replaced by bitter partisanship that wiped out any chance of continuing coalitions that kept our society in check and running.

Depending on the outcome of the voting of Campaign 2020, America either faces a long period of attempted healing or four more years of what may be irreversible decline.

Hopefully, we will know who won by the end of this week, but luck has been in short supply in today’s America.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed and remember that, underneath, we must be Americans, not Democrats or Republicans, not conservatives or liberals and not just red or blue.

The American flag at our home flies upside down, universal sign of a nation in distress.

Hopefully, it will be flying upright in a few days.

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