Tuesday, November 04, 2008
A Little Bit of History
I don't think I have been as moved by the act of casting a ballot since I turned eighteen.
I began to realize just how different this election felt to me as I left school. In spite of my eagerness to learn about voter turnout and to begin the election night past-time of trying to scry the vote, I turned the news off as soon as it came on and rode home in silence. It just felt wrong to clutter my mind with commentary on the way to do something that, I suddenly grasped, had an importance to me that was more than usual.
I did miss voting one year. I had injured my back--pretty seriously, as it happens--and I was in a lot of pain.
Other than that, I've kept my dates with history, but I do forgive myself for standing the country up at the polls that one time. Life happens.
But, I realized, I was not going to be OK with it if anything kept me away from the polls this year.
Not if I broke down by the side of the road. Not if I were in the hospital. Not if some weird little glitch developed with my registrations somehow. Nothing was going to be acceptable to me if it interfered with my ability to exercise my vote today.
Here's the thing: I live in Massachusetts. It really is pretty well a foregone conclusion how Massachusetts is going to vote. And the likelihood of some last-minute interference with my voting, regulatory or through direct tampering, is also pretty remote. You could make a pretty good case that my vote doesn't matter much, and it would not make any real difference if I didn't show up at the polls today for whatever reason.
But, oh, it would have mattered to me!
I was a little freaked when I got to my normal polling place and found, not the usual sign-holders just beyond the precinct limit, but signs telling me the polling place had been moved. I'm still a little worried--will it have flustered my daughter out of voting? I know that it will not. But mamas stay nervous for a lifetime, I guess. At least for the big things.
This is a big thing.
On the way out of the polls, I felt a huge sigh of relief escape me. An older man, looking on, smiled.
"Now you can rest," he said.
Yes. Oh, praise heaven and history, now I can rest.
Now I am part of history. Now I can tell my grandchildren--it really feels as though I will be able to tell them, one day--
"I voted for the first black President of the United States."
It's been a long time coming. But I think something very good is near.
I wept as I went got back in my car.