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Living on the edge — stresses adding up

People are on edge.

That is to be expected. After all, we are in the middle of a pandemic with very few solutions in sight.

Sure, treatments for the illness known as COVID-19 are improving as doctors and scientists learn more and more about the coronavirus that causes it. Politicians and pharmaceutical companies promise that vaccines to build immunity against the disease are in the works.

It is beginning to seem less like a potential death sentence, but infection rates are climbing rapidly.

Most health authorities say that is happening for a few reasons. First, cooler temperatures are driving people indoors, making it more difficult to maintain enough distance to keep us safe from others. Second, people are growing weary of the precautions designed to slow its spread, including wearing masks and avoiding gatherings.

With the holidays just around the corner, those measures will become even more difficult for people to abide by. Large, extended families will want to eat together on Thanksgiving. People will want to exchange gifts with loved ones and tokens of friendship with neighbors, and they will want to worship together, as Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa draw near.

There is little that we, as individuals, can do to stem the frustration we are feeling.

But there is something else that has people all across the country on edge. It is the approach of Election Day.

On Tuesday, America will elect a president. We have no way of knowing whether President Donald Trump, a Republican, will prevail over his challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat. What’s more — it’s likely that we may not know the answer to that question on Tuesday or even early Wednesday morning.

That is mainly because of the coronavirus. The pandemic and the need for social distancing have caused millions of people to choose to vote by mail. In Ohio, mailed ballots must be postmarked by Monday, Nov. 2, and received by your county board of elections by Nov. 13 in order to be counted.

There’s a chance that with mailed ballots outstanding on election night, we may not know the outcome of the presidential race — and some other races — in certain states until a few days after Election Day. If a winner cannot be determined in a particular state, that may leave doubt about how things will go in the Electoral College.

That prospect has many people feeling anxious. In fact, I’d venture to say it makes some feel downright queasy.

They want the election to be completed and resolved. The stress of this presidential contest is weighing heavily on citizens on both sides of the aisle.

That won’t improve if all we do is fret about it. It won’t help, either, if we lash out at people who disagree with us. Too much of that has been going on everywhere this year.

Although social media can be a great way for people to connect, it also can be a terrible way for people to truly communicate. Rather than a free exchange of ideas, many social media posts — especially those about political preferences or adhering to COVID-19 precautions — quickly devolve into accusations and name-calling contests.

Those types of exchanges happen in person as well, though not as frequently — at least not in our region. Instead, some local residents are choosing to steal or destroy campaign signs as a way to combat views they don’t support.

That is wrong, plain and simple.

I recently had someone tell me that they had been posting signs supporting their party’s candidates at various locations around Belmont County. To their dismay, they soon drove past those same spots to see that their signs had been removed. In some cases, the signs they had posted had been run over by vehicles.

Not to be deterred, this person replaced the damaged or missing signs and, so far, has had fewer go missing this time around.

Vandalizing or stealing political signs is illegal in Ohio. Beyond that, it is no way to behave in a civilized society, where we are supposed to be able to speak freely and to choose our leaders through a fair and free democratic process.

I am ashamed that some residents of or visitors to my home county would stoop so low.

But again, people are on edge. Stress is pushing some to the breaking point. Perhaps poor judgment comes along with that.

Here are my thoughts about what we can do to make things better for all of us over the next few days:

On Election Day, cast your vote if you have not already done so. Then, go about your business. Staring at the TV or refreshing online election results again and again won’t make them change.

Avoid social media exchanges that make you feel uncomfortable. If you see posts that make you uneasy, instead of commenting and getting drawn into the confrontation, keep scrolling or get off the app altogether.

If you have posted campaign signs on behalf of a candidate or issue, remember that the right thing to do is to remove them shortly after the polls close. If you need something to occupy your time while you wait for election results to come in, this task might be the answer.

Finally, just remember to be fair, patient and kind. Like it or not, we are all in this together.

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