Thursday, November 1, 2012

I Approve This Message

I voted yesterday.
Not voting has never been an option in my family. When I hear people saying that they don't like the candidates so they just won't vote, I think of my parents in 1982.  We were living in Birmingham, AL and George Wallace was running for his fourth term as governor.  He had won the Democratic primary and run-off largely by presenting himself as a man who had found God and repented for all of those ugly racist things he had said before.

My parents weren't buying it.  As one of them noted, the Bible says to forgive; it doesn't say you have to vote for the person you forgave.

Unfortunately, they were also repulsed by Wallace's opponent.  Rather than not voting, my parents voted for a little-known third-party candidate.  Wallace won easily, but my parents weren't voting to pick a winner; they were exercising their right to vote against two loathsome options.

The first time I voted was in a primary election in 1984 in Birmingham, AL.  I was 18.  They had those election booths like you see on television, with a lever that closes the curtain.  I felt so proud as I pushed the little levers inside the booth, then pulled the big lever to open the curtain and register my choices. Citizenship had never felt so exhilarating.

I registered here in Washington, DC after the 1988 election.  I remember my initial disappointment the first time I voted here: there were no booths with curtains, only little carrels, and you had to color in the arrows to mark your ballot.  But then, leaving the polling place, one of the poll workers handed me a sticker that said, "I voted."  Well.  I placed that sticker on my coat and enjoyed a knowing solidarity with all the other people sporting their little stickers.

I have taken my children with me to vote when possible, and explained to them what it all means.  My son, who is 16, can't wait to turn 18 so he can vote.  That makes me happy.

Use your vote however you want.  It's your right.  But please, use it.

To quote Bob Schieffer's mother, "Go vote.  It will make you feel big and strong."

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