The morning after this presidential election felt a bit like Bizarro World (Seinfeld fans will know what I mean). Everything just seemed the exact opposite of what it should have been. Four days have passed since the outcome, and my shock and disappointment have dissipated somewhat, thanks in part to “Return Day,” Delaware’s post-election-day tradition, a patriotic “festival” of sorts that dates back to 1792. One year prior, Delaware state law officially changed the county seat from the coastal town of Lewes to Georgetown, in order to establish a more central location for citizens to cast their votes on Election Day. Two days later, voters would return to the county seat to hear the results formally announced.
On Thursday, my husband and I attended our first Return Day since moving to Lewes. We arrived just in time to hear Kirk Lawson, the Town Crier, read the election returns from the balcony of the Sussex County Courthouse.
He began with the presidential results, and it was clear that Trump trumped Clinton in Sussex County, although the State’s three electoral votes went to Hillary. But politics aside, the atmosphere was fun, a little corny perhaps, but a slice of Americana that filled me with a sense of unity and community.
The First State is the only state in the country to attempt to bring the candidates together–the winners and the losers–to ceremoniously “bury the hatchet.” Delaware’s favorite son, Vice President Joe Biden has been credited with saying that, “Washington, D.C. needs a Return Day.” And while it’s unlikely that Biden was making a direct reference to 2016’s presidential politics–since the exact where and when of his comments are undocumented–if the shoe fits….
Sussex County chairmen, representing the Democratic, Republican, Independent, and Libertarian parties, bury the hatchet (with sand from Lewes Beach) as a symbolic pledge to bury past grievances and to work together in a bipartisan manner for the benefit of all Delawareans. Delaware’s newly elected governor, John Carney (immediately to the left of the podium at the end of the video), seems to approve.
These were some of Tuesday’s winners: Governor-elect Carney, giving the thumbs-up; on his right, Lisa Blunt Rochester, newly elected to the U.S. House of Representatives; and Bethany Hall-Long, Delaware’s Lieutenant Governor Elect. Joining them on the left are Delaware Senator Tom Carper and his wife Martha.
Perhaps Return Day is just an excuse for a party (no pun intended), without the politics. After all, there were beer tents, a traditional ox roast (with free roasted ox sandwiches for all), and vendors of all kinds selling their wares (my husband bought me an inflatable hatchet)!
…which I immediately put to use, as witnessed by these Sussex County law enforcement officers.
But now the work begins, throughout this state and our nation. If we can “bury the hatchet” in Delaware, I am hopeful that the country can do likewise and move on. With a return to civility. Return to kindness. Return to respect for different points of view. Return to looking out for one another. Return day, every day.