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  • Writer's picture@ Cynthia Adina Kirkwood

Counting Votes, Picking Olives: Honest Work

Updated: Nov 6, 2020

After the harvest in Ervedal da Beira, Coimbra district in Portugal


We spread voluminous green mesh mats around olive trees to catch the fruit that we plucked, shaked and funneled from the trees.

Working the olive harvest is an honest endeavor. What is picked is what is weighed. There is no move to re-weigh in the judicial system of Portugal.

On the second and final day of the harvest, I began the morning watching the United States President Donald J. Trump’s announce his self-declared victory in the presidential race, his dictatorial order to stop counting votes and his empty vow to take the election results to the Supreme Court. He was striving to hold onto power, at whatever cost. Alas, the cost is too high to be sustainable.

Clean air and water are global, not national, challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic is a global, not a national, challenge. Healthy seas and land are global, not national, challenges.

These are life or death issues.

Under a Trump regime, the United States would continue to walk down the road to isolationism, which is untenable. Under a Biden regime, it would work with other countries, learn from them and broaden its perspective. The latter is the only way forward.

I picked olives on the land of friends in my home of central Portugal with nine others from Portugal, France, Morocco, Canada, the Netherlands, the United States and the United Kingdom. We were a veritable United Nations who picked 877 kilos of olives in two days. A couple, who own an olive oil company, brought two mechanized olive tree ticklers that shook each tree in a few minutes as compared with the hours that a chestnut stick could take on large trees. They also pruned the trees and shared their expertise with us.

Without this cooperative effort, most of those olives would have remained on the trees and fallen to the ground – wasted - over the year. The olive company would have missed out on the bounty. And the pickers would have much less oil for the year and knowledge for future harvests.

Without this cooperative effort, there would not have been the kind offer of apples, bananas and water as we worked in the sun. There would not have been the lunches of salads on a warm day, when we stripped down to our T-shirts, and pumpkin soup on the harsh windy day, when we warmed our hands on the bowls. There would not have been a spaghetti bolognese dinner, fueled with wine and beer to help soothe our aches at the end of the day.

In the United States, they are counting ballots. In Portugal, we are weighing olives.

Honest work, both.

Keep counting!

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