Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Content of Our Character on Election Day

A friend wrote to me yesterday to ask if I was waiting in those long Florida lines that she was seeing on her T.V.

Nope--but we did wait longer to vote than I've ever had to wait.  Still, it was only 35 minutes waiting in a line outside in gorgeous weather (I'm so glad we don't vote in July or August!), and everyone was in a good mood.

I saw such a diversity of people:  all ages, a variety of ethnicities and skin tones, and equally split amongst genders.  Down here, it's tough to tell about class and employment by the state of our clothes; most of us waiting in line wore fairly faded and raggedy clothes, but that doesn't necessarily mean what it might elsewhere.  I heard English and Spanish, but no Creole:  not many Haitians in my neighborhood, I guess.

While we were waiting, I said, "Obama will win in a surprise landslide.  You heard it here first."

My spouse laughed and said, "We heard it here only.  You're the only one who thinks that's possible."  He gave me that smile that makes me feel like a treasure he's found.  He said, "You do have remarkable abilities when it comes to predicting hurricanes, so we'll see."

This was my first election where I needed my reading glasses, although if I had squinted, I could have made out most of it.  You may have heard about our amendments to the state's constitution that made our ballots so long; I couldn't have read those without my glasses, but I had already read them and made decisions--and written them down on my sample ballot.

What I really needed was more light.  The privacy booths didn't let in much light, and I could have used more.

When I first opened my ballot, I saw the non-English language, and at first I thought I had the wrong ballot.  Then I realized I had opened it from the wrong direction, so I was looking at the amendments section, which was written in 3 languages, one of them English.

My spouse and I voted and went home.  We made BLT sandwiches, with lettuce that he's been growing in containers in the back yard.  Delicious!

Then it was time to wait--and wait and wait and wait.  I snoozed and tuned in and snoozed and tuned in.

Was it a landslide?  I heard NPR's Maura Liasson call say that Obama won the electoral college vote "in a landslide."

It wasn't the landslide that I half expected, but it wasn't the razor's edge of a win that wouldn't have surprised me either.  Still, I'm glad that it was decisive.

I'm glad for all sorts of reasons, but I didn't want the first time we elected a minority candidate to be seen as a fluke.  We did it once, and then we did it again.

And did you notice how many women we elected as a nation?  I watched the returns on PBS, and at one point, they reported on 3 races, with three women winners, and they remarked on how rare that would have been until, well, now.

And the first uncloseted lesbian won a Senate seat.  Hurrah!  And there were gains in the gay marriage front.

I like these movements towards inclusiveness.  For the first time, I feel I can make a much stronger argument that we really are a nation where these things are possible.

I think about all the times in the not-too-distant past whenI asked my Composition classes which we would elect first, a minority male or a female of any color.  We had great discussions, and they often wrote good essays, but we all agreed that it would take decades for that to happen, if it was even possible in our lifetimes.  But now, it won't surprise me if we elect a woman in the next 10 years.  It won't surprise me if it's a woman of color.  Could we be ready for a lesbian of color to be President?  That would say something about our nation's inclusiveness.

We awake this morning to a world of sobering challenges:  climate change and economic issues and large chunks of the nation out of work, and so many people feeling hopeless.  There was a moment last night, after it was clear that Obama had won, where I thought, hmm, I wonder what happens to my job over the next few years.  I work in a for-profit college, and the days for for-profit colleges may be numbered.  I'm making plans and saving money.

But for now, let me not think of rising seas and vanishing jobs.  For now, let me be happy that I live in a nation where so many of us participate in this democracy, where we seem that much closer to Dr. Martin Luther King's vision of a world where we're judged by the content of our character.


inab said...

Now comes the hard part - can anyone work together for the common good????

Kathleen said...

You called it! I loved my little line, and what it meant about turnout! People turned out!