Wednesday, November 05, 2008

First Time

Yesterday I brought a book with me to wait on line to vote. I only got to read for about 25 minutes because the line was not quite as long as it had been when the polls opened -- when it circled the block twice.

We all knew the voter turn-out would be huge yesterday, four years ago my particular polling place was more crowded than I'd ever seen it before so it was not brain surgery to expect yesterday's crowd would be even bigger.

I vote every time I can. I do the primaries, the city council stuff, any time I have the opportunity to pull the lever in that little booth I do it. I have been doing that since I turned 18 in 1980 and my first election was for president. I was devastated when I heard my candidate had lost. It wouldn't be the last time. But despite losing faith, despite extreme cynicism about politics, I never, not once, gave up the opportunity to exercise my right to vote and have never understood how anyone could. When I was away at college I submitted absentee ballots - okay my presidential candidate lost that one too, but still - I voted. My feeling on it is, if you don't vote you lose the right to bitch and moan about the government. You vote, you have a say. And as a woman not voting is a slap in the face to all those women who came before us and fought for and won the right. So crowds or no, I brought a book and got on line. I was the 211th voter in my election district, and one of the volunteers running the table for my district was named JOY. She was a BABY people, she was born the year I graduated college! But while I waited for my turn to go into the booth we shared "growing up Joy" war stories. Ren and Stimpy, Three Dog Night and of course the lovely hell of Christmas carols. But we both agreed that after a certain age the name ain't so bad. And we also agreed that the privilege we have, the RIGHT we have to vote is a very special thing indeed.

I was so gratified to see so many 'kids' so many first time voters turning out - regardless of who they were voting for the fact that they actually were galvanized enough to get out and get their voices heard was so incredible, so uplifting. And it reminded me so much of the excitement I felt that first time. I still feel it to varying degrees, but I never forget that very first election and how proud I was to cast my ballot. I had been the wacky über-politically aware kid - I don't know how the hell I was so into it, but when McGovern lost my heart broke. I was ten.

I voted early in the day yesterday - I intended to go when they opened but a neighbor warned me about the lines and since people have to get to work in the morning and I don't have to get any where I saw no reason to hold them up when I could go later. After I did vote I had a lot of running around to do and had (amazingly) put the whole thing out of my mind - though I fully planned to watch the results later that night.

In the evening, between two dog walks I stopped at the pet store (hello Joy, it's always the dogs!) to get Basil's food. The cashier was a kid - but he must have just turned 18 this year because he asked me (as people will... honest, I must look like information central) if he could register to vote any where. I was so upset, thinking he hadn't registered and I would have to be the one to point out to him that it was too late and he would miss the chance to vote in this election. But it turned out he had registered, what he meant was could he just walk in and vote at any polling place. WHEW. I set him straight and as he was getting out of work at 8pm he said he had plenty of time to get to HIS assigned polling place. I said: "You have to do it!" He said: "I WILL, I can't WAIT!" And I felt that same rush I had when I was 18 and knew that I had the power to make my voice heard. I imagine his candidate won (unlike my first election) and I hope that rush stays with that kid as long as it has with me.


Bella said...

One of the best things about this election is the spark it has ignited in our youth. Even my students who aren't old enough to vote were passionate about the election - both the presidential race, as well as the California propositions on the ballot.

Which just proves that teenagers aren't apathetic at all, as long as they have some motivation, inspiration, and/or determination that they can make a difference.

Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

It was a mixed bag in California with Obama winning by a margin equal to New York and the Mormons winning Proposition 8. How ironic that a religious group whose ancestors were often murdered because they practiced non-traditional marriage have since become the biggest funders of it.

movie fan said...

i can't help thinking it's awesome that there has been such long lines all over... people taking a greater interest in public issues is always a good thing