Friday, October 28, 2016

Go Vote

Orange cones guided early voters through the doors of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, one of a handful of polling places around town. I took my place in line behind a tall gentleman who read news articles on his phone the whole time.

There we were. A long line of Memphians ready to do our civic duty.  Young, not as young, sick, pregnant, handicapped, first-time voters, old-time voters, Desert Storm veterans, mothers who thanked the veterans, all races and genders. We stood side by side, shuffling our way up the line that snaked through Bellevue's west entrance and into a room equipped with about a dozen voting booths.

The line moved slowly, but no one complained. I think we all knew how important it was to exercise our rights today.

At first, we all avoided eye contact, feeling no need for idle chit chat. But as we drew closer to the polls, that seemed to change. The silence was broken at last by a phone that played the Andy Griffith Show whistle and we all laughed. Talk immediately turned to Mayberry, the 1960s, and voting during a time that was also volatile for our country.

A few more minutes, a few more paces.

Finally, we were ushered into the voting room, signed in, given electronic voting cards and told to pick any booth. It took me about 50 minutes to get that far, and two minutes to cast my ballot.

I exchanged my e-card for an "I Voted" sticker in the shape of Tennessee and it was done. My vote was officially one of thousands cast ahead of the November 8 general election.

2000. The first presidential election I voted in (though not the first one I was old enough to vote in) was George W. Bush vs. Al Gore. It was truly the first time I looked within myself and asked, "Which of these candidates has values that most closely align with my own?" Since then, I've asked myself that same question during each and every election, along with a host of other criteria that have evolved as I've gotten older.

I'm always proud to cast votes for my state and local officials, but many would argue, and I agree, that there's just something about electing a president that resonates a lot louder. It's the kind of pride that makes patriots weepy. The kind of pride that makes us all excited about democracy and dreamy for spacious skies and amber waves of grain. Even with all the mud-slinging, I want to believe that simple, almost child-like view of the world remains at the heart of every candidate.

Smithsonian National Museum of American History
During a trip to the National Museum of American History a few years ago, I snapped a photo of a "wall of presidents" and tried to include each leader in my lifetime. I got them all beginning with Gerald Ford all the way to Barack Obama. No matter how I feel about any of the candidates begging for my attention today, I am eager to see who will be added to the wall, whether Hillary Clinton will break that glass ceiling, whether Donald Trump will make America great again, or whether Libertarian Gary Johnson will make a little history of his own.

June 2014

Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Michelle Obama's inauguration Choos
Smithsonian National Museum of American History


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