This afternoon, we voted. The person in front of me said he was voting for the first time. There were people like us who had voted in every election throughout their long adult lives. There were moms and dads with their young, fascinated kids. There were women, many women – African American, Latinx, white, Asian, young, medium, old – walking in solo, one by one.
Most of all, it was a steady, calm stream of citizens coming each on their own, to cast their vote. The surface mood was intent and peaceful. People just had a modest ballot to contend with – the usual dozens of judges, a few measures, but otherwise, the simple, rock-bottom choice we all need to make.
When I was done, including punching “retain” for a lot of those judges, I sat down to wait for Terry, I took out my phone and then straightaway put it back in my pocket, and just was still, to absorb this moment.
A lot of people we know are early voting not for the convenience but because they want this to be done, decided. We are so tired of the pain, the ugliness, we want the next part to be here so we can work on that. We are getting glimpses of what it might mean to lose – not only the election, but our very foundations.
The place my parents came from did not guarantee a whole lot of voter protections. The secret ballot, the right to vote – I once asked my parents how those things worked back in the homeland and they just laughed and laughed. A real knee slapper, that was.
We forget. The universal right to vote is not a thing that has been around for that long. Really, just a moment in time. American women and men have fought and bled and died to vote, and not that long ago. In my living memory. And now, with sly rearrangements and manipulations, it is in great danger again.
Beneath the intent and the peace today was something else: fear, pride, grim somber determination. Everyone there had got the message. Vote as if your life depends it, because it does.