What a bold, optimistic experiment our nation and government is. So idealistic. So wise about the dynamics of Power. So against autocratic rule. It was designed and created by men (what might have been if women were in the room!) who had just rebelled against their former country and they needed to create a new nation.
I thought about this as I left the house to vote at the local school on Tuesday. It was pouring down rain, the lines were long, and the system unable to handle it with ease. I didn’t mind the difficulty. Our vote is not a casual happening. It is the moment that power is dispersed across our country. It seemed right that it took some work, discomfort and endurance to use my power. I saw people I knew who I was aware would not vote as I would. And it felt grand. Profound. We can disagree about our vote and have a nice conversation in line. That’s our premise.
While in the Peace Corps, I was in Panama City., Panama. The US had just had an election. My then, husband and I were watching the Inauguration of Nixon in a doctor’s office waiting room. The Star Spangled Banner was playing. There were five Panamanians in the room with us. All were quiet. Then a Panamanian man asked why we were not standing for our national Anthem. He went on to say that it was a miracle to see a transition of power without violence. We jumped up, hands over our hearts, glad the anthem was long enough to allow us a moment of pride rather than what the shame or indifference the Panamanians perceived. It took a foreigner to give us a kick in the pants to make us more aware.
After voting, on Tuesday, I went to the Mall to the Apple Store with my husband. I ended up with three hours on my hands while the sick computer was backed-up. I have low Mall tolerance. I wandered and poked about. I was still thinking about voting and wearing my “I voted” sticker proudly.
I didn’t see anyone else with a sticker. I began to ask people about voting. It started out casually. I ended up talking with young women clerks who looked to be in their early mid- twenties. None had voted and none were going to. All were good at helping me in the store—nice and competent. I only asked one question; “Did you vote?”
Here are direct quotes from my tiny sample:
—No I didn’t vote. Would have had to wake up too early. After work I have to get to my kids daycare
—My husband talks just like Trump, so it doesn’t bother me
—They are all crooks so why vote?
—I don’t get paid enough to be able to vote
—My break isn’t long enough and I don’t know where to go anyway
—I never have voted. Neither do my mom and dad
—All I know is school is out and I had to pay a sitter more than I make
—This isn’t for President, right?
—I don’t know the people so I shouldn’t vote
—My boyfriend did
—Is this Oprah’s thing?
—Won’t matter to Trump
—I know I should but it takes so long
—I would, but I support Trump
I think of Veteran’s Day and lives lost to protect Democracy and I want to go back to the Mall and give the young ladies the kick in the pants awareness I got in Panama. Then I’ll give a kick to schools that don’t teach where Democracy came from and how fragile it can be and why it is worth fighting for. Next I’ll boot our election process that makes it difficult for people to vote.
Last I’ll give a kick in the shins to every politician who messes with elections, who doesn’t respect or understand a fair fight, and doesn’t understand that our democratic process is what creates our unique value in the world. It needs to be valued, protected and modernized.