My COVID nightmares have morphed into election nightmares.

One night before the shit show debate here in America, I awoke sweaty and shaking. In my disturbing dream, I was cowering in a corner of my home as a bunch of camo-clad vigilantes crashed through the front door screaming and training their gun sights at my head. I woke up before I could find out what it was that I said or did to get the terrorists’ attention.

Now, I know I’m not alone in my runaway anxiety. Health care providers have reported widespread complaints of insomnia, nightmares and depression since the pandemic unsettled our world.

Diane Carman

Face it, we all have good reason to be losing sleep. There’s a lot to handle even if you don’t pay attention to politics.

After weeks of low numbers of new cases across Colorado in August, unnerving spikes in COVID-19 cases and deaths occurred in September. The average number of new cases per day has jumped 52% in the past two weeks.

Economic forecasts for the state give little hope for recovery for workers in the most severely affected sectors.  Restaurant and hospitality workers, airline employees, teachers, public sector workers, health care providers – all are stranded in an environment of layoffs and unpaid furloughs in a community hobbled by a deadly virus that defies the widespread contempt for public health precautions.

The music and performing arts events that bring us joy and release from the stress of real life have mostly been suspended, leaving us to doom-scroll through our leisure time, binging on the nonstop outrage in the news.

Scared and strung-out, teachers are calling suicide hotlines and drug overdoses have surged across the state. (I confess I resorted to an over-the-counter sleep aid to make it through the night after the debate horror show.)

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Even our final refuge, a walk in the park, has been all but ruined. Since mid-August, we’ve been engulfed in smoke from uncontrollable wildfires. 

Honestly, with all we already are struggling with, I can’t take another night like Tuesday.

That was not a debate. That was an attack on America, on democracy.

Make it stop.

Trump’s calculated disinformation campaign about the security of our elections, riddled with lies and delivered by a president with undisguised hostility toward conscientious voters, is more frightening than the 2016 version created and executed by Russian operatives.

Trump’s unwillingness to denounce white supremacist hate groups and his rallying cry to  the extremist Proud Boys was chilling.

It was straight out of Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America”; out of the KKK playbook, out of the stories of Emmitt Till, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd.

The whole night was insane and terrifying.

Still, call me old-fashioned, but I didn’t like it when Joe Biden called the President of the United States a “clown.” Showing respect for the office is a real thing that shouldn’t be jettisoned just because the officeholder is corrupt and unfit.

Leave it to the rest of us in the privacy of our living rooms all around the world to hurl the insults. You can count on us. We’re there for you, Joe.

And in any case, “clown” was wholly unsatisfying given the circumstances. Bully, bigot, liar, blowhard all would have been more appropriate and were ricocheting across social media all night  – along with a lot more colorful epithets.

The morning after, when the dust settled and the Commission on Presidential Debates promised to find a way to muzzle our savage pitbull of a president in future debates, we were left with a clear message from Trump’s untethered display of bloodlust.

It’s not mere hyperbole. Our most fundamental rights are at risk. There’s no pretending otherwise.

And we have one month left to try to salvage the situation.

That means we must demand support from our leaders. We need to hear from U.S. Senators Gardner and Bennet and our whole congressional delegation that they will uphold the oath of office they took to defend the constitution, and that includes guaranteeing the right to free and fair elections.

We need the assurance of our governor, mayors and law enforcement that we will be safe to express ourselves, to peacefully protest and to vote without fear of harassment – or worse – from armed vigilantes and racist domestic terrorists.

We need finally and unequivocally to challenge those who suggest there’s no difference between Trump and Biden, between Republicans and Democrats.

That’s a baldfaced lie and, like much of the rest of the propaganda polluting cyberspace this election season, much more colorful in the original Russian.

If we don’t do everything we can to stop this madness, we’ll wake up on Nov. 4 to a country we no longer recognize.

Except from our nightmares.

Diane Carman is a Denver communications consultant.

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Diane Carman

Special to The Colorado Sun Twitter: @dccarman