I early voted yesterday. I live in North Carolina, one of those all-important "swing states" and folks here have been early voting since last week. Given all of the local new reports about the record turnout and having witnessed for myself the overflowing parking lot at the library when I intended to cast my vote, I knew to arrive early. So, even though the polling place didn't open until 11:00 am, I arrived at 9:30. It was good thinking on my part, because, sure enough, there was aleady a line of 15 or more people in front of me.
Patience is not one of my virtures. Most of my friends and family members know if they keep me waiting for too long without a damn good reason, I either leave or start (whatever it is) without their slow behinds. The last time I can remember waiting in a line with that many folks in front of me was for concerts tickets to see the R& B artist, Maxwell back in 2001. The main thing the Maxwell ticket line had going for it was constant and steady movement. In contraxt, the early voting line I joined yesterday at 9:30 was one that didn't lurch forward until 11:00.
Still, I resisted the urge to say, "later for this." No, I stood there with the others and waited, comforted by the fact that at least I'd arrived early enough to stand inside of the building as apposed to outside in the elements. My decision to endure the 1 and 1/2 hour wait was further affirmed when by 10am the line behind me was already outside and consisted of probably three times the number of people standing in front of me.
I first registered to vote shortly after my 18th birthday. Even though I haven't necessarily voted in every election since then, I've always taken the right to vote seriously. For me, it goes beyond "civic duty" or even the often touted, "folks died for your right to vote," line of reasoning.
I don't have any memories of the speeches, rallies, protests, marches, sit-ins, beatings and murders that took place during the Civil Rights movement. Even though I was living in Memphis, TN at the time, I was a preschooler when Martin Luther King was assassinated. All I can remember and never will forget from that chaotic and emotional period in our nation's history is the sight of my mother weeping . . . (see here for the full story)
But what I do know and fully appreciate is my history--my own personal history . . . my family's history . . . United States history as well as the history of African Americans in these United States. And I know it hasn't all been pretty and triumphant or the crystal stair (smile) that some might have us believe. There has been, on the other hand, plenty of inexcusable, unwarranted and unacknowledged horror, pain, struggle, poverty, depravation and inequality, the kind of wich doesn't necessarily fill me with pride for my country or fellow citizens.
Just this past weekend, a suspicious event at one of the local polling sites, prompted my husband and I talk to talk to our school-age son about the historic suppression of the Black vote, the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and the election tampering and tomfoolery that's occured in recent years in places like Ohio and Florida.
So, if you're waiting for me to say, "It doesn't matter who you vote for, as long as you vote," it ain't gonna happened (smile). Sorry, just because something is the nice, polite, politcally correct thing to say, doesn't make it a truth I'm willing to buy into. Nope, for me, the truth is, it does matter, this year more than ever. Our nation seems to be at a crossroads and I, for one, am fearful of what lurks at the end of the narrow and treacherous path we've been plodding and stumbling along for the past eight years . . . if not, all of my life and then some.
That's one of the main reasons why, yesterday, I was so willing and eager to wait in an unmoving line for however long it took to cast my vote . . . my vote for change. And if you really want to know the truth, some of us have been standing in this line for generations. When the time finally came for me to press that lever, don't think I didn't feel the presence of all those who dreamed of such a moment, but never lived to see it, standing right there beside me.
And later that evening, when my son arrived home from school and the first thing out of his mouth when he burst through the door was, "Mom, did you get to early vote?!" not only did his interest and enthusiasm make me smile, it made me view my relatively small sacrifice within the larger context of generations to come.