Thursday, October 23, 2008

In The Voting Line

Even though early voting started last week, it took until today for it to reach Bumfuck USA, where I live. I got there about 9 AM, thinking "Hot damn! There's hardly anybody here!" Then I realized they weren't open yet, not until 10 AM, Figuring it would only get more crowded, I lined up with the other two people already waiting.

We were an interesting trio: Me, your middle class bohemian white girl, another woman, roughly in her late 40s, wearing a man's quilted flannel coat, cigarettes in hand, and an older sweater-clad black man, who was fairly quiet at first.

We started chatting, to kill time, and at first, we didn't talk election at all. Then some campaigner came up to us and started handing out pamphlets, which I pointed out to him, was forbidden in that area. He mumbled something to the effect, "Oh I didn't know..." and wandered off to easier targets. My line buddies were visibly relieved as he left, and confided in me that they were both first-time voters this election and didn't know the protocol of where and when campaigners may accost you. As I was pointing out the sign that told campaigners where to stop, one of our local hopefuls for the House came up, all hand shaking jocularity. I shook his hand, as did my buddies, and the woman asked him what he would do for us if he was elected. He began his list of well seeming, albeit vague intentions, and when he paused, I jumped in.

I pointed out that our town is one of only a few towns that surround Raleigh that don't have impact taxes levied against developers, that our growth is unchecked, unsupported, and irresponsible. After his eyebrows came back down to earth, he agreed, and told us he wanted to see impact taxes that would include more money for building schools and hospital/rescue services, as well as just for roads. And then he drifted away.

The cat out of the bag, so to speak, we began talking amongst ourselves about the candidates, although studiously not using names. The woman in the flannel coat muttered, "I don't want to see no hockey mom end up as president", acknowledging a fear many have, concerning McCain's advanced age, and his four-time fight with cancer already. I laughed and agreed, and turning to Sweatered Black man (and btw, I don't consider it denigrating to acknowledge someone's skin color, only to treat them differently for it) said to him, "I am very hopeful for this election, and it's potential to be of major historical significance." He nodded and told me that his sons had pushed him to go and register to vote, because they thought so too. "If my candidate becomes president it will go a long way to right a number of wrongs in this country", I said then, and he tilted his head and looked at me, as if just seeing me for the first time. "That's a really good way to put it", he said, and I went on to explain. "The divisions among us in this country have to end. So you're black, and I'm white, but we're both Americans, and we both want the same things out of life. Only by working together are we going to achieve that. A lot of Americans don't go and vote, thinking they have no representation or voice, but it's crucial that we all step up and cast our vote, and not leave it to a quarter of the population to decide everyone's futures."

I think I might have blown his mind, but in a good way, I hope. It's too easy to let our differences qualify us, to divide us, but what is this nation but a melting pot of ethnicities, of cultures, and should we let old rich white men call the shots for a culture of that kind of diversity?

15 comments:

Chanda (aka Bea) said...

AMEN! You said a mouthful there. I find it heartening that you can find three very different folks in a voting line, with all the same voting inclination, and all with the same hope. A hope that could change the face of this country.

Very very good piece!

csquaredplus3 said...

That was a great post. For many reasons. I love the picture of you and two strangers waiting in "line" together. The campaigner coming, then going. The conversation, the descriptions. It was all so... American.

Vodka Mom said...

I'll add an AMEN to that, as well. Now, get your ass up here to MY neighborhood and help me out. I have a bad feeling I'm surrounded.

A Free Man said...

We shouldn't and hopefully we shan't. Did you ever think that you'd be living in a "swing state" and that you might be chucking Libby Dole out? Obama's been just fantastic and I'm glad to see that you're standing in line to help close it for him.

Anonymous said...

You are right. Lets elect rich half white men to call the shots. It will make all the difference in the world.

Maggie, Dammit said...

When are anonymous people gonna get that no one listens to them precisely because they choose to be anonymous? I can't even begin to take the time to interpret that comment, because I can't be bothered if they can't. Who knows if he/she actually said something worth noting?

Anyway, wow. You basically lived out one of the many scenarios that restrict themselves to my fantasies. Awesome.

Anonymous said...

You really told me! I think...

Real Live Lesbian said...

Great post! Your last line says it all!

Lara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lara said...

Exactly. It's all about taking your part in the process.

(I hate when I accidentally skip a word and have to repost my comment! LOL)

Ben and Bennie said...

Great post! We must be on the same wave length again.

This election is so very important because we truly have a chance to unify the country once again. Obama has gotten young people to see the importance of voting - to get involved with their elected leaders. He's bridged generational and racial gaps. He makes us feel good about ourselves again and I truly believe his strongest characteristic is being a motivator.

I heard a great interview over the weekend with an undecided voter. She basically wants to know which candidate will give her back what Washington has stolen over the past 8 years. and I feel the same way!

nutmeg said...

Here's to open conversations and open minds. YES WE CAN!

Gypsy said...

Tapdancer, you have a troll. I think you've made it.

And also, to mimic Nutmeg, YES WE CAN!

Erika said...

This is such a cool story. I wish I had a similar one to tell from my voting experience. Everyone at my early voting site pretty much kept to themselves -- even when we offered to hold the baby of the lady behind us so she could fill out her ballot more easily. Oh, well. I'm glad to know that conversations happened somewhere. And congrats to NC for going blue!!

Braja said...

You hit the nail on the head, O Tap Dancing One. Their may be so much racial and ethnic and cultural diversity, but an old rich white guy who is out of touch is in no way prepared to deal with those realities, nor is his Barbie preppie wife. Mind you, Obama doesn't get away with that tag either: just cos he's "suntanned" (thanks for that word, Italian prime minister!) don't mean he's ever been down and dirty. He's also skirted around the edge of life and lives a sheltered existence. Good luck with all that, I say....