Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I voted today

Truth be told, I think that voting is the smallest thing that we do that is part of participating in democracy. The reality is that elections happen on the first Tuesday in November, in some cases in April or June. But, it's an isolated act. To me there are far more important things that we do as citizens. Being a democratic citizen doesn't just happen a few times a year, or when there is a Presidential election. It happens every day, in very small but significant ways.

We pick up trash, help neighbors clean up their yard after a big storm, take care of each other, and hold each other accountable for the well-being of the community. We dig deeper to understand the bigger issues that are out there and work with others to solve the roots of problems, not just put Band-Aids on them.

I have to admit, though, this election is exciting in a very different way. Regardless of who one votes for, taking part in the election has taken on a life of its own. In some cases the days leading up to the election have brought out the best and worst in us. But what really got me was the number of people who were at my polling place this morning.

I vote at a school that is up the hill from me. In the last six years when I have gone to vote, there are usually more poll workers and observers than there are voters. This morning there was a short line. I went at 10 AM, and there were two people in front of me who I don't think had ever voted before. When I asked one of the poll workers how the morning was, she said it was really, really busy. As she leafed through the signature book, I saw many signatures... so many signatures. Usually, I vote at the end of the day after work, but I was afraid I would have to wait in a long line and I had some things at home that were almost as important as voting (It's Mr. Edubabbler's birthday. When I asked him what her wanted, he said, "chocolate cake and for [his candidate] to win the election." I told him I could take care of the first, but the second was beyond my control). At 10AM, it looked like more people had voted than there were the last time that I voted in the evening. Amazing.

But what really struck me were the people walking TO the polls. When I left, I was struck about the number of people who were walking and driving to the school (it's more or less on a dead end-- it's a pretty easy guess which way people are going). On the one hand were the many older individuals... long standing members of the community. Most of them were white (the town where I live used to be Italian, Polish, and Dutch, depending on which part of the city you were in), and came in by themselves or with a companion (in some cases, they brought THEIR parents with them). In contrast were the young families, many of whom have moved out from New York City in the last few years. Predominantly Latino, African American, and of Middle Eastern descent, they have revitalized the neighborhood in which I live. Many had their kids with them, and it was such an interesting contrast. But they all had to things in common. They held their heads high as they walked and they voted.

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