Vote, vote, vote!
Sometime in 1993 or 1994, my little brother became close friends with a little boy at school who was biracial (not at all unusual in our neighborhood, but important to the story). Our parents became friends and we often spent time with them at ball games and our moms talked as they waited for the kids to come out from school. One afternoon I was waiting with my mom for my brother to come out of school, and we talked with "Leah" as we waited. Leah proudly announced that day that she had voted. My mom, distracted by a thousand other things said, "Oh, ok," not realizing what had truly happened. I immediately said congratulations, and Leah grabbed my hand with tears in her eyes and in her gentle, musical voice she said, "thank you." I started to cry as well because I knew what this meant to her.
WIth that same lilting voice, I had heard countless stories over the past year of the beatings and harassment she had received in her home country of South Africa for falling in love with a man of the wrong color. She was a black South African, and her husband was a white American. She had told of the times when no one came to her aid as women shoved their shopping carts into her at the neighborhood grocery store, and times when even the police made nasty comments as she walked down the street. No one defended her right to love who she chose, and she had no vote, no voice to create change.
And today, with the end of apartheid, she was finally granted the right to vote in her own country. Though she was residing here with her husband as he finished his second doctorate at the university here, she was able to vote by absentee ballot. She was still her sweet and forgiving self, but she held herself differently now, with dignity, with pride.
I know that it was not that long ago that such grand changes happened here in our country as well, but this is the moment that it all came home to me. Now, for the first time since I've become legal to vote, I'm feeling like a patriot. I found a candidate who inspires me because of who he is, and not because I hate him less than the other guy (how I've voted the last few elections, because gosh darn it, I was going to exercise that right to vote). I was so thrilled to cast my vote tonight, and the ice storm did not deter me or any of the other people who were skating across the parking lot. In fact, I strategized with another woman on the best way to get up/down the ice covered steps to the lower parking lot because the upper lot at the high school was already filled.
So even if you are not in love with Barack the same way I am, and even if you are in love with someone else this election year, I encourage you to take advantage of your privilege and right to vote. I'll write more soon about the ch-ch-ch-changes going on here.