What startles a visitor like me from India is how the 2020 US presidential election has divided families, husband and wife, parents and children, observes Payal Singh Mohanka.
Amidst an air of normalcy, there lurks a quiet fear as I walk past boarded up stores in New York. Stacks of plywood strips are providing armour in anticipation of civil disturbance. Having faced devastation in May and June this year, the Big Apple isn't taking any chances. President Trump has been vocal about the fact that there isn't going to be a peaceful transition if he loses.
But what really surprises a visitor like me from India is how the 2020 US presidential election is tearing families apart.
I remember the 2014 Lok Sabha election in India. Four members of my family left home to vote. Each one was voting for a different political party. Dismayed by the available choices of candidates, one member even opted for NOTA.
We left the polling booth and returned home, equally amiable. A divergence of political views within a family was not something alien to me.
But here in the US speaking to friends and family has been a revelation. Families are sharply divided. As a friend in New York says, "I would disown my family if they voted Trump."
Spouses have diametrically opposite views. A cousin In New Jersey went as far as saying, "I am not going to tell my wife, but I am voting for Trump. My wife goes ballistic when she see Trump on television and thinks he is obnoxious.
My cousins in Baltimore too hold diametrically opposite views. You either love Trump or you hate him, there is no in between.
I speak to my niece in Florida. Her husband is a Trump supporter, but her 12-year-old daughter has convinced her not to vote for Trump. Two reasons: The president thinks climate change is a hoax and his abysmal response to the pandemic.
Violently conflicting political allegiance within the family can probably be attributed to the personality of one of the candidates in this presidential race.
By his detractors, Trump is seen as racist, divisive, unfair and a liar. A leader who has time and again betrayed a lack of sensitivity and compassion.
As a Democrat supporter says, "Even if Trump was a Democrat I wouldn't support him. He is everything I despise."
My US-based extended family WhatsApp group is bursting with messages. Dump Trump: It is the right thing to do screams one faction, while another extolls his contribution and says voting for him is the right thing to do!
His critics feel under Trump the US has become a place of division, anger and hate. It is us versus them. Isn't it better for the economy to have more immigration, they ask.
Also, Trump is disrespectful to women, he abuses opponents, he throws tantrums, he attacks the press, the litany continues.
While his opponent Joe Biden may not be a great candidate, he is seen by many as a more desirable option.
Trump's supporters, however, are willing to put aside the aberrations in his personality and focus on the good he has done for their country.
But is't his personality evident in his politics say those who feel his divisive, brash, persona certainly reflects in his policies. As a president his thoughts and words have consequences: Normalising hate crimes, perpetuating white supremacy and violence against minority communities and putting thousands of livelihoods at risk.
Yet there are several who support him. As a friend says, "I know he has no filters. There is no connection between his brain and mouth, but there are things about him I admire."
"He was a complete outsider who made it. A brash real estate and TV show guy who came in with a swagger. And yes the economy was doing fairly well till the pandemic struck."
"I stood in a queue for 10 years I am totally against illegal immigration. And most important, only Trump has the gall to take on China. Trump promised certain things for instance lowering taxes, he went ahead and did them."
A New York based psychoanalyst says, "Sadly people buy into Trump's statements. He is a very divisive person. He is manipulative. He works on people's emotions. He mocks people. He stokes people's fears and anxieties."
"Working class people are worse off today. I dread the thought of another four years of Trump. If he loses the damage won't be undone in a rush."
As one youngster puts it, "If Joe Biden wins you would hate your President a normal amount, not an abnormal amount."
It is a tough choice for Americans to make.