"Just up the ramp and to your right hunny; in the cafeteria," an old woman with gold front teeth smiles at me and nods the way. Signs read "Vote Here" just beneath the Knollwood Elementary banner. I step into a mostly-empty room where just three old women stand in line before me; three black women. I stand in the room as a young voting woman; among three other women, five volunteers, and my husband. I stand in the room as a voting woman, because our brave mothers fought tirelessly for my right to be here among men. I stand with African American voters because in 1869, and again in 1965, black men and women won their hard-fought battle against racial discrimination at the polls. I stand in a mostly empty room and I am moved to tears. Less than 100 years ago, these doors would have been closed to all of us.
It is a sacred thing, what is happening in this mostly-empty room. The few of us who stand in line together, of varied gender and color, are here because of the years, the labor, the blood, the sweat, the tears; the lives lost, the imprisonments. We are here because we were handed this legacy. We are here because, despite the cynicism, we still believe we have a voice. We still believe we matter.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
I've been reflecting this morning on those words, on my vote, and on that mostly-empty room, and I've got to admit: I'm angry.
I'm angry at that mostly-empty room. I'm angry at the ways we've thrown our hands up, conceding that our votes don't matter anyway, so why bother? I'm angry at women who do not honor the great gift we've been given by our mothers and grandmothers; the freedom; the right to throw our hats in the ring. I'm angry at minorities who are convinced their voices will never change anything for their families, and decide it's best not to get politically involved. I'm angry at Americans who complain about the way things are, but won't exercise as basic an act as getting their asses to the polling booth and using their voices to elect representatives who actually represent the people within their governance.
I'm angry, and probably beneath that; I'm hurt.
But I get it.
It's hard to see how one vote could possibly stack up against the millions of other votes; against the broken election systems; against the powers that be. I get it. It's difficult to struggle year after year against the flawed infrastructure of American politics. It's disheartening to feel unrepresented by your leaders, or even worse, to feel manipulated and neglected by them.
But giving up is not the answer. It's never been the answer. Bench warmers never won a game.
Madeleine Doubek wrote, “It’s ours, after all. We own it. The politicians work for us. And we need to start demanding better.” and George Jean Nathan once said, “Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.”
And while I am not so naive as to believe that casting a vote is all it will take for us to move America forward into the kind of future we all want to be around for, I am hopeful enough to believe that it matters, and that it's where we begin. To press onward; to continue the work of the people; to maintain the progressive momentum of our brave revolutionaries, we must stand on the shoulders of our mothers and fathers. We should honor their work, graciously and thoughtfully exercise our rights, and bravely make our voices heard. We should vote.
For starters, we should vote.
Today is Super Tuesday, which is a huge day for presidential candidates.
I want to encourage you; if you live in one of these States, find out where you need to go, and get your vote on.
“The efforts of the government alone will never be enough. In the end, the people must choose and the people must help themselves.” — John F. Kennedy