VOTING DAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2012 ~ CARMEL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA
I always end up crying.
I envision recent purple fingers of Iraqis casting first time votes. I picture marching Suffragettes before my time. The Revolutionary War and the Founding Fathers and the Civil War and all the country bloodied for freedom here then, the wars between, and more young and old dying on foreign shores for freedom there, now. The days when only landed gentry could choose the government. The bad choices and the good ones of America’s present and past.
Little, sweet Carmel Valley.
To vote here is not like Brooklyn.
Brooklyn (God bless ’em in the throes of Hurricane Sandy) above.
Here is a tiny local place full of neighbors. Active, happy, but respected ground, 2 minute wait in line, wobbly portable ”booths” set a few feet apart, with privacy-possible side wings. No urgency, a second study of California’s propositions. I make my marks. This year we connect arrows.
At the entrance, a boy of maybe 8 years next to his little sister maybe 4 stand behind their father. The children peek at mystery. Before they turn to leave I place my hand on the boy’s back and bring him gently forward a pace and say, This is the place where you will come to vote when you’re older. Those are the places to mark your ballot. This is the way you choose your government and its leaders. You can do this because you are in America, and this will be your sacred honor.
I thank two banks of short tables of the maybe ten volunteers for being there. They all respond, smiling. They thank me for coming to vote. A serious-looking 18 year old girl has voted and walks out past me.
I take an “I VOTED” sticker for my car, protesting that it is bi-lingual. Do you have any that are just English? It is our native tongue, our country’s language. I embarrass the volunteer who says he understands, but steps back silent, clipboard protectively between us.
Are we, in this great country, afraid of immigrants and ashamed to be proud of all we have managed to become. Yes. I fold off the non-English part of the I VOTED sticker and put it, altered to suit me, on my windshield.
Then I put the key in the ignition and weep, glad to live in the United States of America with all its turbulence and breathless, heart-wrenching, joy-filled longing to get it right. Today I am a part of that more than usual.
At the gas station before home I meet four people: one (a small business owner) heading to vote, three who would not.
A construction worker, no, because, “It’s all rigged,” a girl in her twenties who said, “Do I have to?” and an elderly man who said he never ever votes. The traffic to the polling place is, nonetheless, getting busier.
credits: Grant Wood; NY Post; Norman Rockwell